The highest court in military-ruled Burma dismissed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's latest bid for freedom Friday, turning down an appeal to end 14 years of house arrest, diplomats said.

The Supreme Court's decision had been expected since legal rulings in Burma, also known as Myanmar, rarely favour opposition activists.

Lawyers for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate earlier said that if Friday's verdict went against them, they would have one final opportunity for appeal before the Supreme Court by launching a "special appeal."

Attending Friday's session were diplomats from Australia, France, Great Britain and the United States who briefed reporters waiting outside the courtroom on the verdict. They declined to be identified, citing protocol.

Suu Kyi's lawyers appealed to the court last November after a lower court a month earlier upheld a decision to sentence her to 18 months of house arrest.

She was convicted last August of violating the terms of her previous detention by briefly sheltering an American who swam to her lakeside home.

The 64-year-old democracy icon was initially sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour in a trial that drew global condemnation, but that sentence was immediately commuted to 18 months of house arrest by junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years. Her National League for Democracy won elections in 1990 by a landslide, but the military, which has ruled Burma since 1962, refused to cede power and has constantly obstructed her party's operations over the past two decades.