United States approves new Burma sanctions

July 24, 2009 (DVB), The US Senate has approved a one-year renewal of sanctions banning the import of Burmese goods to the US, and will now look to Congress for an extension to the boycott.

The decision belonged to the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over United States' international trade.

The current resolution on Burma, contained in the 2003 Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, authorizes Congress to renew the import ban each year through to 2012.

"As long as the Burmese junta continues to engage in gross human rights violations and govern its people with an iron fist, the United States should continue to stand in support of human rights, and on behalf of the Burmese people," said Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus.

"These international trade sanctions, together with the sanctions imposed by several of our trading partners, put necessary pressure on the junta so they, in turn, stop the mistreatment of their own people."

The renewal of US sanctions has been a likely decision since May, when Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was brought to court on charges of breaching conditions of her house arrest.

The trial marked a return to the prevailing US attitude towards Burma, which had deviated slightly in February when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the need to rethink policy in light of the failure of sanctions.

Clinton however again fueled speculation on Wednesday that a new dawn was approaching in US-Burma relations when she spoke of the potential for the US to engage and invest in Burma if Suu Kyi were to be released.

The US has also expressed concern about the potential for Burma and North Korea to trade in nuclear material and information, following strengthening ties between the two pariah states.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, which ends today in Thailand, Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win reportedly told Clinton that Burma would adhere to a UN resolution requiring member states to search suspicious North Korea cargo.

Clinton had earlier urged the 10-member ASEAN bloc, which follows a path of non-interference in domestic affairs of member states, to expel Burma if it fails to carry out democratic reforms.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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