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U.S. Envoy To Myanmar, Derek Mitchell, Visits Yangon

Myanmar

10/24/11 12:24 PM ET   AP

YANGON, Myanmar — The United States' special envoy to Myanmar began his second visit in less than two months on Monday amid hope that the country's new government is serious about political reform.

Derek Mitchell will be in Myanmar for two days and will meet with democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi, senior officials including Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, and representatives of civil society, U.S. State Department spokeswoman for East Asia and Pacific affairs Darragh Paradiso said in Washington.

Mitchell said last week after Myanmar released about 200 political prisoners that Washington sees encouraging signs of openness in the country, which was under direct military rule for decades until this year.

President Thein Sein, who took power in March following November elections, says his government is trying to ease tensions in the country. He is considered a moderate compared to previous leaders but critics have accused him of creating a facade of liberalization to prompt Western nations to lift sanctions imposed over the country's political and human rights record.

"Ambassador Mitchell plans to visit Burma frequently to build on our ongoing principled engagement, including dialogue with the Burmese government and local stakeholders," a U.S Embassy statement said. Washington uses the country's old name, Burma, which is preferred by many opponents of military rule.

In his talks with government officials, Mitchell will raise "our long-standing core concerns, including the need for the release of all political prisoners, dialogue with the opposition and ethnic minorities, adherence to Burma's international obligations on nonproliferation, and end to violence against ethnic minorities," the statement said.

Washington sought for years to isolate Myanmar's previous military government with political and economic sanctions, but the policy seemed to have little positive effect. The Obama administration has sought to engage Myanmar, and after two years, there are signs of change.

Myanmar is also seeking to assume the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014 and may be trying to impress ASEAN leaders before a November summit when the decision could be made.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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Filed by Clare Richardson  |