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Former ambassador claims Burma looking to improve US ties

Mar 30, 2009 (DVB), Recent diplomatic efforts by the Burmese government appear to signal a move towards improving ties with the new US administration, a former ambassador to the Burmese embassy in Washington said.

Major Aung Lin Htut, former Deputy Chief of Mission at the Burmese Embassy in Washington, said prior to the visit by a US official to Burma last week that the ruling State Peace and Development Council had been working with the Chinese to formulate a new approach the Obama administration.

Speaking to DVB last week, he said that the tactics used to lobby former US President George Bush in 2001, which were overseen by current SPDC head General Than Shwe, were being used now.

"[Than Shwe] is the same person who has always been saying that he hated the United States but he is now kowtowing before the United States," said Aung Lin Htut.

"This is because of the sanctions."

The visit by US official Steven Blake on 24 March was seen as a possible sign of a change in US policy to Burma, after nearly 20 years of sanctions against the country.

The US, however, have denied any rumours of policy change, despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying last month that the US needed to review its sanctions on Burma in light of their failure.

Aung Lin Htut also said prior to the quarterly meeting of military commanders held last Friday that there would be a discussion at the meeting on action to be taken should the efforts to improve Burma-US ties fail.

The meeting would also discuss a scenario in which the SPDC loses the 2010 elections, as well as action to be taken if the elections cannot be held as scheduled, said Aung Lin Htut.

Opposition groups have slammed the elections as being futile, given that the redrafted constitution guarantees a continuation of military rule.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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