A Burma court has rejected democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's appeal against her house arrest.

However, hopes remain that she will be freed within days of the first election in 20 years in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

Lawyers for the Nobel peace laureate believe she will be released on Saturday regardless of the Supreme Court decision, but they had hoped she would also be acquitted to prove her innocence.

If she is freed, the 65-year-old, who has spent much of the past two decades locked up, will re-emerge into Burma's politics less than a week after a controversial election that saw the junta's proxies claim a landslide win.

Her lawyer Kyi Win confirmed the court's rejection of the appeal and said the case could be taken further, to the junta itself.

A Burma official said the chief justice of the Supreme Court had 'confirmed the sentence' but gave no further details of the judgment.

Ms Suu Kyi's detention was extended by 18 months in August last year over a bizarre incident in which a man from the US swam uninvited to her lakeside home, where she is under house arrest, keeping her off the scene for the election.

Burma's generals stopped her National League for Democracy from taking power after it won a landslide victory in the last poll in 1990, and she has spent many of the intervening years shut up in her crumbling Yangon home.

Officials said that preparations for her expected release were under way, yet despite mounting hopes, some fear the military regime may still find a reason to extend her sentence.

If her release is allowed, it will be viewed by many observers as an effort on the regime's part to deflect criticism of Sunday's poll - widely dismissed by the West as a sham, with Ms Suu Kyi sidelined.

Her freedom is far from secured and observers believe it could come with hefty restrictions to ensure she cannot threaten the generals' carefully constructed power base.

Another of her lawyers, Nyan Win, said she would hold a news conference at her party's headquarters if freed, suggesting she is likely to resist any attempt by the authorities to restrict her political activities.

He said the appeal against the house arrest sentence was only to argue her innocence and should not affect moves to free her.

The daughter of Burma's liberation hero General Aung San remains hugely popular in a country that has suffered under military rule for nearly half a century.

When she was last released in 2002 she drew huge crowds wherever she went.

Her absence from this election and the decision by the NLD to boycott the vote - leading to its dissolution by law - left Burma's opposition weakened and deeply split.

Early results from the election suggest the junta-backed party has all but crushed its political rivals, amid opposition complaints of cheating and voter intimidation.

After the military's proxy claimed an overwhelming victory in Sunday's vote, dashing the hopes of those pro-democracy parties that participated, attention has turned to whether the anti-junta forces will regroup under her leadership.

Ms Suu Kyi's youngest son Kim Aris, 33, arrived in Bangkok ahead of the election and his mother's possible release.