US announces senior-level Burma delegation

Oct 22, 2009 (DVB), The United States has said it will send a senior-level government delegation to Burma "in the next few weeks" and intends to meet with both the Burmese junta and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Dialogue between the two countries "will supplement rather than replace the sanctions" that Washington holds on Burma, said Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Campbell, who headed talks between a Burmese delegation and US officials last month, was testifying yesterday in front of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on US policy to Burma.

The meeting last month was the most high-profile between the two countries in nearly a decade, and came shortly after the US announced it would begin dialogue with the junta.

"We expect engagement with Burma to be a long, slow, and step-by-step process," he said. "We will not judge the success of our efforts at pragmatic engagement by the results of a handful of meetings."

The US delegation will also hope to meet with representatives of Burma's ethnic nationalities and members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, Campbell said.

The US was criticized for not inviting members of the Burmese opposition to the talks in Washington last month, which included only the Burmese minister for science and technology, U Thaung, and Burma's permanent representative to the United Nations, Than Swe.

Suu Kyi met with three diplomats from the US, United Kingdom and Australia earlier this month. The NLD leader was sentenced in August to a further 18 months under house arrest.

The UK ambassador to Burma, Andrew Heyn, later told reporters that she appeared to be in "remarkable form".

The talks were then followed by a meeting between senior NLD members and 20 European diplomats. Party sources said it was the largest foreign delegation to meet with the NLD in nearly a decade.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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