YANGON, Myanmar

Supporters await release of pro-democracy leader

Supporters of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gathered near her home this morning, hoping to see the Nobel Peace Prize laureate taste freedom after seven years of detention by Myanmar’s ruling generals.

Scores of people holding a vigil were disappointed that she was not given an early release Friday night, but colleagues said an order to set her free had already been signed by Myanmar’s junta. The period of her latest detention expires today.

The country’s first election in 20 years was held Nov. 7, and critics allege it was manipulated to give a pro-military party a sweeping victory. Results have been released piecemeal and already have given the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party a majority in both houses of Parliament.

The 1990 election was won in a landslide by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, but the military refused to hand over power and instead clamped down on opponents.

Jailed or under house arrest for more than 15 of the last 21 years, Suu Kyi has become a symbol for a struggle to rid the Southeast Asian country of decades of military rule.

She was convicted last year of violating the terms of her previous detention by sheltering a man who swam uninvited to her lakeside home, extending a period of continuous detention that began in 2003, after her motorcade was ambushed by a government-backed mob.

ROME

Pope regrets remarks about Islam, won’t retract them

Four years later, Pope Benedict XVI says he regrets the controversy caused by remarks about Islam in a speech, although he still would not retract them, an Italian newspaper reported Friday.

The daily Il Foglio cited German journalist and writer Peter Seewald in describing how the pope now looks back on his Sept. 12, 2006, speech in Regensburg, Germany, which caused an uproar in the Muslim world.

On Nov. 24, Seewald is to unveil a book about the pope and the church, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.”

In the Regensburg speech, the pope had cited a 14th-century text by a Byzantine emperor linking violence and Islam, with the text describing how the Prophet Mohammed did not shy away from spreading his faith “by the sword.”

Now, Benedict said he would not retract his speech, which he had meant to be “primarily scholarly” in its aim to discuss views on Islam, but acknowledges he underestimated the impact his words would have.

 

– From news service reports