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Burma generals reshuffle government

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Burma's four top generals consolidated their power Saturday in the form of new ruling council, promoting several younger leaders and pushing rivals into mainly ceremonial posts.

The changes contained no indication the military was ready to relinquish any of its absolute authority.A brief announcement Saturday said the 21-member State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC, which has been in power since September 1988, had been dissolved.

In its place, a 19-member group called the State Peace and Development Council has been created. The new council is made up of the four top generals and 15 commanders of the various military regions of Burma.

Throughout SLORC's eight-year rule, its leaders repeatedly have insisted that its current form of military rule was only a transitional government. Yet, the regime has never made any further moves toward establishing a civilian government.

The reshuffling comes as the military government has recently hardened its stance against pro-democracy leaders, particularly 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military leaders on Saturday also announced the formation of a 14-member Cabinet and a separate 14-member advisory board. Eleven members of SLORC's previous Cabinet were given positions on the advisory board, but the government announcement carried no details on the role and relative power of each body.

The four generals who remain firmly in control of the country are: Sr. Gen. Than Shwe, the chairman of SLORC; Gen. Maung Aye, the vice-chairman; Khin Nyunt, secretary-one and head of military intelligence; and Gen. Tin Oo, secretary-two.

The ruling council contains two newer faces in Burmese power circles: Gen. Win Myint, who was given the title of secretary-three, making him the fifth most powerful general, and Gen. Tin Hla, who heads the newly formed Ministry of Military Affairs.

Although the junta opened Burma to foreign investment in the early 1990s, the economy is in a sharp decline, with inflation running at about 40 percent and the currency, the kyat, rapidly losing value.

Most trained economists have left the country rather than live under military rule.