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Suu Kyi party welcomes US support on Myanmar reforms

Myanmar's opposition on Tuesday welcomed a US call for voters to have a free choice over their next president, amid efforts to change rules that bar Aung San Suu Kyi from standing.

YANGON: Myanmar's opposition on Tuesday welcomed a US call for voters to have a free choice over their next president, amid efforts to change rules that bar Aung San Suu Kyi from standing for president.

The US State Department urged reforms to ensure Myanmar's people could "freely choose their president", in a statement responding to concerns that the army-affiliated ruling party would use its majority to quash amendments to the constitutional clause which currently bars Suu Kyi.

A spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) said Washington's support was a positive sign.

But he warned of hurdles ahead as the party strives to amend the military-drafted charter before 2015 parliamentary elections seen as a key test of Myanmar's democratic transition.

"We welcome their calls. But there could be many legal problems before it can be implemented in practice," Nyan Win told AFP.

The NLD is widely expected to win the majority of seats in next year's poll, if the vote is free and fair.

The president is chosen by parliament and Suu Kyi has indicated that she would like to stand.

The former political prisoner is ineligible under the 2008 constitution, which prohibits anyone whose spouse or children are overseas citizens from leading the country.

Many suspect the clause was added by the then-ruling generals deliberately to exclude Suu Kyi. She was married to a now-deceased British academic and their two sons are British.

Nyan Win said a change to the clause -- known as section 59F -- could only be implemented if the government and parliament agree to amend it before the election.

He added that a parliamentary committee tasked with making recommendations on constitutional reform was believed to be still deliberating 59F, after reports emerged that the ruling party-dominated body had voted to leave the provision unchanged.

The State Department said it would continue its discussions with the Myanmar government and "key stakeholders as they work to develop their final recommendations on constitutional changes".

"Enabling the Burmese people to freely choose who they want to lead them during the critical next phase of transition will help to ensure stability in the country as the democratic transition continues," the State Department said in a statement on Monday, using the country's former name.

The NLD has launched a countrywide petition to promote its calls for a change in the charter, which also reserves a quarter of the seats in parliament for unelected military personnel.

Any change to the charter needs the support of over 75 per cent of the legislature, so at least some soldiers would have to vote for the reforms.

Last month, Suu Kyi earned a rebuke from the country's election commission for urging the army top brass and soldiers to support reforms in a speech to a crowd of thousands.

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