US `pleased` with Myanmar reforms progress

Suu Kyi is running for a parliamentary seat in the vote, one of several dramatic developments in recent months.

Yangon: A key US senator on Sunday said the
United States was "pleased with the progress" of Myanmar`s
reforms but urged the nominally-civilian regime to ensure
upcoming by-elections are "free and fair".

Following an hour-long meeting with opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi at her Yangon home, John McCain said there
remains "a great deal to be done" in the nation, which has
recently begun to emerge from the shadow of military rule.

His visit, the latest in a flurry of international
diplomatic advances since the new leadership embarked on a
series of reforms, comes as Western powers have indicated a
willingness to review strict sanctions against the country.

McCain told reporters that he had urged President Thein
Sein to continue in the right direction at a meeting in the
capital Naypyidaw today morning, but had added the US does not
"expect miracles".

"We made it very clear that we are pleased with the
progress that has been made but we said there are a number of
issues that need to be addressed including the rule of law,
including ethnic conflicts and of course progress towards free
and fair elections," he said.

The senator said he had pressed Thein Sein to allow
international observers to monitor by-elections on April 1,
but had received no commitment from the president, a former
junta general who took power in March.

Suu Kyi is running for a parliamentary seat in the vote,
one of several dramatic developments in recent months.

Reforms have also included the release this month of
hundreds of political prisoners, leading US President Barack
Obama to call for the resumption of full diplomatic ties.

Speaking in Bangkok yesterday, McCain said the US would
likely begin to lift sanctions if the by-elections were free
and fair, but he also expressed caution, saying Washington
should not "rush into judgments that we may regret later on".

Last week, diplomats indicated that the European Union
was considering whether to begin lifting sanctions in
February, although the by-election was also seen as a key
litmus test by Britain and France.


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