`Myanmar wants regular relationship with US`

Myanmar`s new administration has surprised many observers with a series of reformist moves.

Last Updated: Nov 25, 2011, 19:42 PM IST

Naypyidan: Myanmar wants a "regular
relationship" with the United States, a senior official in the
military-dominated country said on Thursday, days before a historic
visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The signal of a desire for warmer diplomatic ties came as
democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi`s opposition party took its
first step towards a return to mainstream politics in the
latest indication of reform in the isolated nation.

Shwe Mann, the speaker of the lower house of Myanmar`s
parliament, welcomed the first trip by a US secretary of state
to the country in 50 years and said Suu Kyi would be embraced
by the army-dominated legislature.

Myanmar, ruled for decades by a repressive junta and
shunned on the world stage, has seen promising changes since
an election last year brought to power a nominally civilian
government.

US President Barack Obama said Clinton`s visit, which
will begin on Wednesday, is aimed at boosting what he called
"flickers" of progress in the the country.

Former general Shwe Mann, regarded as one of the most
powerful men in the current regime, said better ties with
Washington would not mean worse relations with China,
Myanmar`s largest foreign investor and key ally.

"We have no regular relations between the United
States and Myanmar. In reality, we want to have a regular
relationship," he told reporters in the capital Naypyidaw, in
his first-ever news conference.

"The road is open for better relations between the two
countries."

Myanmar`s new administration has surprised many
observers with a series of reformist moves, including holding
talks with Suu Kyi, passing a law giving workers the right to
strike and releasing around 200 political prisoners.

"I think there will be more changes and developments
in politics in the future," Shwe Mann said.

Suu Kyi`s National League for Democracy (NLD) applied
to officially re-register as a political party on Friday,
paving the way for the Nobel laureate to stand for office for
the first time.

The NLD, which was officially disbanded after
boycotting much-criticised parliamentary polls in November
2010, plans to contest upcoming by-elections, where 48 seats
will be up for grabs.

Party officials have said Suu Kyi is likely to stand,
though she has yet to confirm this and no date has been set
for a vote.

PTI