Burma hails 'successful' US senator visit

Aug 18, 2009 (DVB), Burma's state-run media today called the recent visit by US senator Jim Webb, who secured the release of John Yettaw, a success and a demonstration of the junta's goodwill.

Webb left Burma last week after meeting with the junta leader Than Shwe, and imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

A commentary published in three of Burma's main state-run media outlets said that the trip demonstrated the country's diplomatic friendliness towards the United States.

"The Senator's tour of Myanmar was welcomed and recognized both locally and globally as a successful visit," said the New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

[It] helps deepen the relations between the US and Myanmar and reflects Myanmar's magnanimity and consideration."

The meeting between Webb, who chairs a Senate subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, and Than Shwe was the first time a senior US politician has met with the reclusive leader.

During talks between the two, Webb reportedly urged for the release of Suu Kyi, who was last week sentenced to a further 18 months under house arrest.

"I was very frank with [Than Shwe] in terms of my views," Webb told reporters in Bangkok on Monday. "The best thing on those issues is to see how the government responds."

During a visit to Burma by United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon in early July, the ruling generals twice denied his requests to meet with Suu Kyi, claiming that her trial forbade her from meeting with anyone.

Webb's visit came at a time of increasing speculation as to whether the US is rethinking policy to Burma.

The impact of sanctions has been called into question by senior US politicians, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, although the US did recently renew its sanctions package.

Webb has long called for the removal of the economic embargo in light of its apparent failure, and has said repeatedly that he favours engagement with the regime.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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