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Senior US Senator Urges Lawmakers to Renew Sanctions Against Burma

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged lawmakers to renew tough sanctions against Burma's military rulers for not making what he called "tangible progress" in democratic reforms.

McConnell, a Republican, made the appeal Wednesday as he introduced an annual sanctions bill in the Democratic Party-controlled Senate.

He said existing U.S. sanctions should remain in place because lifting them will give the Burmese military the legitimacy that it wants, as he put it.

McConnell said two decades of U.S. and U.N. attempts to engage Burma's military achieved "no progress" in returning the country to democracy.

Last year, the Obama administration announced a new U.S. policy toward Burma that emphasizes pragmatic engagement with its leaders rather than isolation and sanctions.

But the administration also said it will not drop existing sanctions that include a virtually total U.S. trade ban until Burma makes major steps toward political reform.

Burma's military has promised to hold the country's first elections since 1990 later this year. But the country's main opposition party is boycotting the process because the military has barred its detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi from standing for election.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won the 1990 election, but the military did not allow it to take office.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.