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Pattaya Daily News

20 June 2011 :: 17:06:48 pm 55198

EU team in Myanmar for talks with new government

YANGON, June 20, 2011 (AFP) - A team of senior European Union diplomats has arrived in Myanmar for exploratory talks with the new government following the handover of power from the long-ruling junta, a Myanmar official said Monday
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Robert Cooper, special adviser to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, flew into the capital Naypyidaw Sunday, joining EU special envoy Piero Fassino who arrived a day earlier, said the official, who asked not to be named.

They were due to meet three ministers in the new nominally civilian but army-backed government, including the foreign minister, followed by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday in Yangon.

The EU has declined to release details of the team’s schedule.

Myanmar’s military junta was dissolved in March following the first election in 20 years in November and the release of Suu Kyi shortly afterwards.

The transfer of power sparked cautious hopes of gradual reform in Myanmar, ruled by the military for nearly half a century, although the poll was marred by widespread complaints of cheating and intimidation.

“This is a first stage aimed at listening to the new Myanmar authorities to gauge their mindset,” an EU diplomat said Friday. “All partners concerned by Myanmar have sent, or will be sending, missions to test the new authorities.”

In April, European governments extended by a year a set of trade and financial sanctions on Myanmar, also known as Burma, but opened the door to its foreign minister as an inducement to accelerate change.

Debate over whether to soften sanctions against Myanmar was stoked last November with the release of democracy icon Suu Kyi from house arrest.

Suu Kyi herself has said sanctions should remain in place until there is real democratic reform and the EU, on opting to maintain them in April, expressed hopes of “a greater civilian character of the government”.

But the bloc lifted for a year a visa ban and asset freeze for “certain civilian members of the government”, including the foreign minister.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi swept her National League for Democracy party to a landslide election win in 1990, but the regime never accepted the result and she spent much of the past two decades a prisoner in her own home.

Her party boycotted last November’s election, saying the rules were unfair, and the vote was won by the military’s political proxies.

Photo : Internet   Category : World News

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