US: No Quick End to Burma Sanctions Seen

Posted November 23rd, 2011 at 7:50 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. officials say they they are not contemplating an early lifting of sanctions on Burma, despite plans for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to visit the country next week.

White House official Ben Rhodes told foreign reporters at a briefing in Washington Tuesday that any discussion of lifting of sanctions is still “premature.”

Clinton will be the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Burma in 50 years. Rhodes said the purpose of her visit is to add momentum to recent reforms in that country and to learn more about the government's intentions.

He said Clinton will be especially interested in encouraging progress on human rights, political reform and respect for ethnic minorities.

President Barack Obama announced plans for the trip during last week's visit to Indonesia for the East Asia Summit. Rhodes said he spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi on his way to Bali and that the Burmese democracy leader “very much welcomed” the decision to send Clinton to Burma.

The United States and other countries maintain stiff economic sanctions on Burma because of its harsh human rights abuses, including military operations against ethnic groups and the jailing of up to 2,000 political prisoners.

However a new Burmese government that took office this year has released about 200 political prisoners, eased some press restrictions and opened a dialogue with some of its critics, including Aung San Suu Kyi. Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations recognized the reforms last week by approving Burma's bid to serve as ASEAN chairman in 2014.