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Burma Welcomes Political Dialogue, Encourages Suu Kyi to Travel in Country - 2003-04-15


Burma's military government says it is welcomes meaningful political dialogue, a day after the European Union toughened sanctions because of slow progress in talks between the generals and the repressed democratic opposition.

Burma's leaders issued a statement encouraging pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to keep traveling around the country and denying she was harassed on her latest trip.

Aung San Suu Kyi went to Chin State this month to meet with members of her National League for Democracy Party. It was part of a series of trips around the country since May, when she was released from her latest house arrest. She was confined for previously trying to leave the capital.

The military said it has "complete trust" in Aung San Suu Kyi's commitment to the smooth and stable development of Burma and wants meaningful dialogue.

The statement did not address new EU sanctions imposed on Burma for a lack of progress in talks on the political transition from military rule.

Those talks began behind closed doors in October 2000 with U.N. encouragement. There has been progress in easing restrictions on the NLD, but not much in political substance.

EU foreign ministers extended and toughened sanctions Monday, saying they found no credible evidence why a clear timetable for the return to democracy had failed to materialize in these talks.

The EU measures include extending of the numbers on a visa blacklist and freezing assets of key members of the military government.

Political science professor Chaiyachoke Chulasiriwong, at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University, said the sanctions have had an impact on the Burmese government and the new sanctions will add to it.

"To an extent I do believe so [that sanctions are effective]. Because when the economy of Burma became very bad and it needs a lot of investment, a little help from anywhere would be a great help to the Burmese. Therefore the sanctions in a way can make some sort of difference," he said.

The European Union and the United States have had tough sanctions in place for years in a bid to force the military to give up more than 40 years of rule. Sanctions were strengthened after the NLD won 1990 elections by a landslide, but was stopped from taking power.

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