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US lawmaker arrives in Myanmar: Officials

Last Updated: Friday, August 14, 2009 - 15:24

Yangon: The first senior American official to meet Myanmar`s junta chief, Than Shwe, arrived in Myanmar on Friday, local and US officials said.
Democrat Senator Jim Webb`s visit comes days after the military ruler extended the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi by another 18 months, following the conviction of the pro-democracy leader and an American man who swam to her lakeside house.

Webb flew in to Myanmar`s administrative capital Naypyidaw from Laos where he launched a two-week tour of the region on Thursday, US embassy spokesman Richard Mei said.

A Myanmar official speaking on condition of anonymity said that Webb, who is close to US President Barack Obama, would meet Than Shwe on Saturday afternoon. Webb`s office has also said he will meet the military strongman.

Webb is scheduled to travel to the commercial hub Yangon later Saturday, the official said.

Suu Kyi`s National League for Democracy (NLD) said Myanmar authorities had invited four senior members of the party to Naypyidaw on Friday and they would travel to the capital in the afternoon.

"They invited them to meet with an important person. It is not clear whether it will be with Senior General Than Shwe or whether it is with the US senator, but we will find out when they get there," NLD spokesman Nyan Win said.

Nyan Win welcomed a UN Security Council statement expressing "serious concern" on Thursday and hailed the European Union`s decision to extend sanctions against the junta, including the judges in the trial.

"These moves show that the whole world wants justice for Daw Suu. We have the same attitude," said Nyan Win, who was also one of the lawyers in the case. Daw is a term of respect in the Burmese language.

Webb -- a hard-nosed Vietnam veteran who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific affairs -- would be the first senior US official to meet Than Shwe.

The White House on Thursday welcomed Webb`s visit, which is also the first by a member of Congress in more than a decade, saying he would convey "strong" US views of good governance to the junta`s leaders.

Diplomats have however played down suggestions that Webb could win an amnesty for US national John Yettaw, who was sentenced to seven years of hard labour and imprisonment for swimming to Suu Kyi`s lakeside house in May.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, August 14, 2009 - 15:24
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