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US to relax Myanmar sanctions

The US said Wednesday it will ease restrictions on investment to Myanmar and quickly appoint an ambassador as it seeks to boost reformers who allowed landmark elections in the long-closed nation.

world Updated: Apr 06, 2012 01:34 IST

The US said Wednesday it will ease restrictions on investment to Myanmar and quickly appoint an ambassador as it seeks to boost reformers who allowed landmark elections in the long-closed nation.

In its latest gestures under a three-year diplomatic drive on Myanmar, the US said it would step up aid and allow select officials to visit but stopped short of easing the bulk of two decades worth of biting sanctions.

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton hailed the “leadership and courage” of President Thein Sein after the opposition swept Sunday’s by-elections, giving Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi a seat in parliament.

“The US will stand with the reformers and the democrats both inside the government and in the larger civil society as they work together for that more hopeful future that is the right of every single person,” Clinton told reporters.

Clinton said the US would start easing restrictions on US investment and financial services in areas seen supporting reforms in the country.

Officials said they were deciding the exact measures and timeframe but that one priority would be to allow the use of credit cards in Myanmar, one of the few nations where MasterCard, Visa and American Express are never accepted.

Clinton — who paid a landmark visit to Myanmar in December — said the US would complete formalities “in the coming days” to send an ambassador, completing a promised upgrade to full relations after a two-decade gap.

But Myanmar will stay under a number of tough sanctions set by the US Congress including a ban on its key exports such as jade. “Sanctions and prohibitions will stay in place on individuals and institutions that remain on the wrong side of these historic reform efforts,” Clinton said. She said the US was still pressing for a release of all political prisoners.