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Obama could meet Burmese premier

Nov 4, 2009 (DVB), United States president Barrack Obama could cross paths for the first time with Burmese prime minister Thein Sein at a summit to be held in Singapore later this month.

The Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong told Kyodo News yesterday that he "expects" Thein Sein to attend the inaugural ASEAN-US summit, held on the sidelines of the larger Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Obama is also due to attend, and will be the first US president to meet leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc in 10 years.

Although it is unknown whether the two will meet directly, relations between Washington and Naypyidaw took a dramatic turn yesterday as the most senior-level US delegation to visit Burma in 14 years arrived in Rangoon. The head of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar (AIPMC), Kraisak Choonhaven, told DVB however that a meeting between the two could be risky.

"Mr Obama risks being disappointed," he said. "[The Burmese government] would probably say that they are on their way and just keep on doing what they are doing. He should not do it until there is some believable response coming from Naypyidaw."

The US delegation in Burma, led by the head of Washington's East Asia and Pacific Bureau, Kurt Campbell, this afternoon met with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a Rangoon hotel.

The issue of her detention will likely feature highly on the agenda at the ASEAN-US summit, while much speculation will ride on the talks that took place today.

Choonhaven warned however that without the will to release Suu Kyi, "how can they do the whole country?"

The US has pinpointed her release as a key goal of engagement with the regime, following years of sanctions and isolation.

Campbell said however that dialogue "will supplement rather than supplant" sanctions, that were ratcheted up following Suu Kyi's detention in August.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin


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