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Burma Promises To Free All Political Prisoners By Year's End

Burmese President Thein Sein is promising to release all political prisoners in his country by the end of this year.

Mr. Thein Sein made the pledge Monday during a speech in London as he visited Britain for the first time.

He was given a warm welcome by British Prime Minister David Cameron. The two leaders discussed increasing trade links and military cooperation. Mr. Cameron also urged the Burmese president to defend human rights.

President Thein Sein said thousands of prisoners already have been released from Burma's jails. He said a committee is working through the cases of those still in prison.

The Burmese leader also said he is close to brokering a nationwide cease-fire to end long-running conflicts between the government and various ethnic groups.

Mr. Thein Sein's visit was met by some protestors in London who demonstrated against Burma's human rights record.

The arbitrary jailing of political opponents was a hallmark of military rule in Burma and sparked a host of political and economic sanctions that Western governments have begun to ease since democratic elections two years ago.

Shortly after taking office, President Thein Sein freed pro-democracy icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who had spent 20 of the previous 24 years under house arrest for her political activities.

Despite Mr. Thien Sein's reforms, human rights activists inside and outside the Southeast Asian nation estimated late last year that more than 300 political prisoners jailed under military rule still languish in Burmese prisons.

The Burmese president also is facing growing sectarian violence in his country, where an estimated 140,000 people -- most of them Rohingya Muslims -- have fled their homes in western Burma since majority Buddhists and minority Muslims began fighting last year.

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