Burmese foreign minister visits Washington embassy

Sept 22, 2009 (DVB), Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win has arrived in New York after being granted permission to visit the Burmese embassy in Washington, a US official said yesterday.

A number of senior Burmese government ministers, including the prime minister, Thein Sein, are attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.

The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters yesterday that Nyan Win "made a side trip" to the embassy in Washington, but did not meet with any members of the US government.

Thein Sein, the most senior Burmese official to visit the US in over a decade, is leading a 15-member delegation at the General Assembly, which began yesterday.

Relations between the US and Burma are strained, although the Obama administration is reportedly close to finalizing its review of policy towards Burma, which has been subject to US sanctions since 1997.

Little is known about the possible outcome of the review, although US secretary of state Hillary Clinton spoke in February of the need for a revise policy in light of the failure of sanctions.

The US has been the fiercest critic of Burma, and ratcheted up pressure on the ruling junta following the sentencing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in August.

US senator Jim Webb's visit to Burma in July, during which he met with both the junta supremo Than Shwe and Suu Kyi, marked the first time a senior US official has visited Burma in over a decade.

He followed the trip with an article in the New York Times which called for an easing of sanctions in favour of greater engagement with the regime.

Critics of sanctions have said that increased Chinese investment in Burma has dampened the impact of an economic embargo.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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