Thursday, April 30, 2009

US Will Not Lift Sanctions on Burma


The United States is not considering lifting sanctions against Burma as part of a review of policy toward the military government, Agencie France Presse (AFP) reported on Wednesday, quoting a letter by a State Department official.

Richard Verma, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs who handles relations between the State Department and Congress, wrote a letter to Republican Congressman Peter King saying reports that the US would lift sanctions were "incorrect."

According to the AFP, Verma said: "The sanctions that the United States and other countries maintain against the regime are an important part of our efforts to support change in Burma."

"While we are currently reviewing our Burma policy, we can assure you that we remain committed to delivering a firm message on the need for real reform, including the initiation of a credible and inclusive dialogue with the democratic opposition and the release of political prisoners," Verma said.

During her visit to Asia in February, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the United States was reviewing its policy of sanctions against Burma's government.

"Clearly, the path we have taken in imposing sanctions hasn't influenced the Burmese junta," she said, adding that the route taken by Burma's neighbors of "reaching out and trying to engage them has not influenced them, either."

Her comments triggered an intense debate about what policy approach toward Burma might prove most effective.

In March, Stephen Blake, the department's director of Mainland Southeast Asian Affairs, flew to Burma's capital of Naypyidaw and met with Foreign Minister Nyan Win, as the administration of US President Barack Obama continued to review the Burma policy of former President George W. Bush.

In July 2008, the US signed into law the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act 2008. The act has three aims: to impose new financial sanctions and travel restrictions on the leaders of the junta and their associates; to tighten the economic sanctions imposed in 2003 by outlawing the importation of Burmese gems to the US; and to create a new position of “US Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma.”

Recently, the European Union (EU) renewed its economic sanctions on Burma for one more year, during a foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg.

The EU said it would continue to work to establish an open dialogue with Burma’s ruling generals. It also called for the junta to conduct a genuine dialogue with opposition and ethnic groups.

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