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US extends Myanmar sanctions
Obama says Myanmar remains "unusual and extraordinary threat" to US foreign policy.
Last Modified: 15 May 2010 05:03 GMT
US sanctions against Myanmar's ruling military were first introduced in 1997 [EPA]

Barack Obama has formally extended US sanctions against Myanmar, in an effort to increase pressure on the military government as it moves to hold the country's first elections in more than two decades.

The sanctions, first employed in 1997, ban American firms from investing in Myanmar, bans Myanmar exports to the United States, and also target individuals with links to the country's military.

In a message to Congress, the US president said he had extend the sanctions "because the actions and policies of the government of Burma continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States".

Burma is the former name of Myanmar.

The sanctions extension comes days after a visit to Myanmar by Kurt Campbell, the assistant US secretary of state responsible for East Asia and the Pacific.

During the visit last week Campbell held talks with senior government ministers in the administrative capital, Naypyidaw, during which he warned the military against buying weapons from North Korea, calling on the country to abide by UN sanctions prohibiting such transactions.

Strong warning

His comments appeared to be Washington's strongest warning yet amid fears that the military government is seeking to acquire nuclear technology from North Korea.

Aung San Suu Kyi briefly met Kurt Campbell in Yangon during his visit [AFP]

The extension of US sanctions also comes after the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, was forcibly dissolved after refusing to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register as a political party - a move that would have forced it to expel its own leader.

The dissolution was mandated under widely criticised laws governing the elections, which are expected to take place later this year although no firm date has yet been announced.

Under the election laws unveiled in March, anyone serving a prison term is banned from being a member of a political party and parties that fail to obey the rule will be abolished.

The government has kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for nearly 20 years.

She led her party to a landslide victory in Myanmar's last elections in 1990 but the result was never recognised by the military.

Campbell, who held talks with Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit to Myanmar last week, said later that the US was "profoundly disappointed" at the preparations for the upcoming elections.

He called on Myanmar's government to take "immediate steps" to address fears that the vote would lack legitimacy.

Source:
Agencies
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