Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Burma: Top U.S. official arrives in Burma

FOCUS Information Agency - Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia of the United States Kurt Campbell arrived in Nay Pyi Taw Tuesday on a two-day mission to Myanmar to continue dialogue with the country, official sources from the new capital said, Xinhua reported.

Campbell's Nay Pyi Taw trip is marked as the highest-level one to Myanmar of the U.S. in 14 years since 1995.

Campbell, a U.S. official visiting Myanmar after U.S. Senator Jim Webb, will meet on the same day, according to the agenda, Information Minister Brigadier-General Kyaw Hsan, Science and Technology Minister U Thaung, Chief Justice U Aung Toe who is also Chairman of both the Commission for Drafting State Constitution and for Holding Nationwide Referendum as well as ethnic peace groups, diplomatic sources said.

Strongly advocating engagement with Myanmar, Jim Webb, who is also Chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited the country in August as the first ever one of a member of the U.S. Congress in over a decade, during which he met separately with Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi, General Secretary of the NLD (National League for Democracy).

Describing Webb's trip as successful, Myanmar official media expected his visit would help promote constructive views on bilateral relations.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in September that Washington would shift its policy towards Myanmar by direct engagement with it while keeping sanctions in place.

As a symbolic move towards Myanmar, the U.S. granted Myanmar Foreign Minister U Nyan Win to visit Myanmar Embassy in Washington in September before he joined Myanmar Prime Minister General Thein Sein at the 64th United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Thein Sein demanded an end to economic sanctions in his address at the UN gathering.

On the margins of the UN meeting, Campbell met for the first time with a Myanmar high-ranking delegation, headed by Science and Technoliogy Minister U Thaung and Myanmar Ambassador to the U.N. UThan Swe.

On the occasion, Webb also met with Thein Sein in New York.

In the latest development, a Yangon-based U.S. diplomat, along with two others from Britain and Australia, were allowed by the government to meet Aung San Suu Kyi on Sept. 9 in Yangon on exploring ways to remove Western sanctions against Myanmar.

The meeting was arranged at the request of Aung San Suu Kyi to the government.
The U.S. government has imposed sanctions against Myanmar since1997 and renewed for one year by U.S. President Barack Obama in May.

These sanctions include suspension of economic aid, withdrawal of Myanmar from the General System of Preference and Overseas Private Investment Programs, implementation of arms embargo, blocking of assistance from international financial institutions, downgrading of U.S. representation in Myanmar from the level of ambassador to charge d' affaires, imposition of visa restriction on senior government officials and a ban on new investment in the country by U.S. citizens.

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