Yettaw release 'will not affect' US policy to Burma

Aug 19, 2009 (DVB), The United States has said that the release of US citizen John Yettaw from a Burmese prison last week will not affect its ongoing review of policy towards Burma.

Yettaw, the man whose visit to Aung San Suu Kyi's compound in May triggered a trial which ended in guilty verdicts for both, was released last week following a visit to Burma by US senator Jim Webb.

Suu Kyi was sentenced to 18 months under house arrest, while Yettaw's sentence of seven years with hard labour was overturned after talks between Webb and Burma's reclusive junta leader, Than Shwe.

The US has said however that its review of policy to Burma will continue unaffected by Yettaw's high-profile release.

"We continue to look for signs that the Burmese government is prepared to embark on a meaningful dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi along with the rest of the democratic opposition," said Phillip Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

He said that the Obama administration is looking for signs that Burma is "fundamentally changing its approach and its policies," adding that "I don't think that Mr Yettaw's release is an indication of that."

The US recently renewed sanctions on the Burmese regime, although there have been several signs that the Obama administration could change tack on its policy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in February that the US needed to review Burma policy in light of the failure of sanctions, which have proved ineffective given China's ongoing financial and political support for the regime.

Furthermore, the visit by Webb, the only senior US politician to have travelled to Burma in over a decade, suggests they may be looking to engage more with the regime, following years of isolation.

Obama said he is appreciative of Yettaw's release, although he urged Burma to release all 2,100 political prisoners.

Webb followed his visit with a statement expressing hope that the gesture offered by the Burmese government can be taken "as a way to begin laying a foundation of good will and confidence-building in the future".

Reporting by Francis Wade

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