No easing of Myanmar sanctions in Hillary trip: US

The United States bans virtually all trade with Myanmar, including in its lucrative gem industry.

Last Updated: Nov 23, 2011, 20:44 PM IST

Washington: A senior US official said on Wednesday
that the time was not right to ease sanctions on Myanmar
despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s plans for a
groundbreaking visit next week.

Hillary will seek progress on human rights, including on
the treatment of ethnic minorities, but it is "premature" to
discuss lifting sweeping sanctions on the military-backed
government, White House official Ben Rhodes said.

"The secretary`s visit is in part to add momentum to
what`s taken place and to explore what`s going forward but
there are no plans right now to lift sanctions," Rhodes, the
deputy national security adviser for strategic communications,
told reporters.

President Barack Obama announced last week at an East Asia
Summit in Bali that Hillary would become the first US
secretary of state to visit Myanmar in 50 years after the
country`s government undertook reforms.

It has opened talks with the opposition and ethnic
minorities. The party of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi
recently decided to rejoin mainstream politics after
boycotting elections that were widely seen as unfair.

"We believe that there is very intensive follow-through
on this Burma track that is going to be an important focus of
the United States," Rhodes said, referring to Myanmar by its
former name.

The Obama administration hopes "to see if we can continue
moving the ball forward on the types of reforms that we`ve
seen in Burma," Rhodes said.

The administration has made dialogue with US adversaries
a key part of its foreign policy and in 2009 opened talks with
Myanmar`s then military junta, offering to ease sanctions in
return for progress on democracy.

The United States bans virtually all trade with Myanmar,
including in its lucrative gem industry. Easing restrictions
would require approval of Congress, where bills in support of
sanctions have enjoyed overwhelming support.

Critics charge that Myanmar remains one of the world`s
most oppressive nations and still detains many of the
dissidents it rounded up in a bloody crackdown on rare street
protests in 2007.

PTI