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Myanmar hopes for end to US economic sanctions

A further lifting of US sanctions on Myanmar, which could come during a visit by officials to Washington this week, would be crucial to opening its long-isolated economy, a senior Myanmar government official said.

world Updated: May 18, 2012 01:25 IST

A further lifting of US sanctions on Myanmar, which could come during a visit by officials to Washington this week, would be crucial to opening its long-isolated economy, a senior Myanmar government official said.

Foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin meets US officials on Thursday, stoking expectation the United States might announce a further lifting or suspension of sanctions, including investment restrictions, on the country that is also known as Burma.

It is the first official visit by a Myanmar minister to the United States in decades.

"The sanctions are a big problem," Tint Thwin, deputy director general in Myanmar's commerce ministry, told Reuters.

"If they are lifted there would be an immediate impact."

"The US government sanctions bar bank transactions in US dollars. That is a major problem for us. If they lift the sanctions, we can easily transfer money, so our private sector can grow, invest and do business and immediately increase our prospects."

Myanmar's nominally civilian government has pushed through sweeping reforms since nearly half a century of military rule ended a year ago, but although multinational companies now want to invest as the country makes the transition from pariah state to frontier market, US sanctions are a formidable barrier.

US sanctions are the tightest imposed on the former junta by Western powers, banning new investment in the country and imports as well as restricting financial transactions and freezing the assets of financial institutions and top officials.