Clinton: Grounds for Optimism in Burma

Posted September 15th, 2011 at 8:25 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says there are grounds for optimism about Burma, where the new government is promising democratic reforms.

Clinton met in San Francisco Thursday with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

She said Burmese leaders have made “welcome gestures,” including talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and allowing her to speak this week at a U.N. day of democracy event in Rangoon.

But Clinton said the United States still has serious questions about Burma's treatment of ethic minorities, the status of more than 2,000 political prisoners and Burmese ties with North Korea.

Rudd said Australia also welcomes the recent moves by Burma. But he said if Burma wants to re-engage with the international community, it must release all prisoners of conscience and allow more political freedom.

A civilian government took over in Burma in March after decades of military rule. But the new government is dominated by former military officers and critics have said they doubt if it is committed to true democracy.

The new U.S. coordinator for Burma policy, Derek Mitchell, wrapped up his first official trip there this week. He met with top government leaders and Aung San Suu Kyi. Mitchell said officials repeatedly assured him that the country has opened a new chapter and is sincerely committed to reform.