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news - US to Engage Burma's Junta

september 24th, 2009

"The US plans to change its approach to Burma, enlisting a combination of sanctions and engagement in a fresh bid to persuade the ruling junta to allow more democratic freedoms, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.

The US and other groups, notably the European Union, have imposed economic sanctions for several years on Burma, a military-run, resource-rich state. But those sanctions have done little to effect change in the country thanks to its burgeoning trading relationships with China, Thailand and India.

This year, the Obama administration conducted a review of Burma policy to find ways to complement the sanctions program.

'We believe that sanctions remain important as part of our policy but by themselves they have not produced the results that had been hoped for,' Mrs. Clinton told reporters at the United Nations in New York. 'Engagement versus sanctions is a false choice in our opinion, going forward we will be employing both of those tools.'

Mrs. Clinton didn't elaborate on the new forms of diplomatic engagement. She indicated that there would be no softening of US demands toward Burma and repeated calls for the military rulers to release opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mrs. Clinton also called on the government to begin talks with the opposition and ethnic minorities about real democratic change in the country, which has been ruled by the military since 1962.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for Ms. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, which has long supported international efforts to isolate Burma, said the party agreed with the US policy change to engage the ruling junta 'as long as the US continues to maintain the pressure.

'That's most important. The pressure has to be there,' Mr. Nyan Win said, adding that the NLD had expected Mrs. Clinton's announcement.

The Burma government couldn't be reached to comment; officials seldom talk to foreign media, preferring to communicate through announcements published in state-run newspapers in Burma."

MORE: "US to Engage Burma's Junta" (WSJ)

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