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EU Eases Burma Sanctions

The European Union on Friday eased some sanctions against Burma in response to political reforms initiated by the Southeast Asian country's nominally-civilian government, which took power last year.

The Council of the European Union says it has suspended visa restrictions on 87 top Burmese officials, including the president, vice presidents, members of parliament and their family members. The move follows the government's release of hundreds of political prisoners in January.

EU spokesman Michael Mann described a climate of hope in EU dealings with the new government, after decades of repressive military rule.

"We are hoping that [the sanctions easement] will encourage the regime in Burma-Myanmar to make further reforms and to release further prisoners," said Mann. "We are currently reviewing our policy, our overall policy on Burma-Myanmar, and, you know, we will take decisions in the coming months depending on what happens on the ground."

The new Burmese government has also cleared the way for democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to run for public office in by-elections April 1. The Nobel laureate had spent much of the past two decades under house arrest, gaining her release in late 2010 as the military junta relinquished power.