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U.S. Extends Sanctions Against Myanmar

May 21, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bush administration on Friday extended sanctions against Myanmar for another year after the nation’s ruling junta barred pro-democracy and ethnic groups from a constitutional convention.

The sanctions were imposed a year ago to pressure the Asian government into releasing democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. The United States bans the import of products from Myanmar, freeze assets of its senior officials and prohibit virtually all remittances to Myanmar, also known as Burma.

A growing chorus of Myanmar’s neighbors and members of the international community have called on the country ``to fulfill its promises of progress on democracy and national reconciliation,″ the White House said in a statement.

The Bush administration called on military authorities in Myanmar to reopen branch offices of the National League for Democracy, which were closed last year.

``A convention that does not include all of these groups cannot make real progress toward democracy or national reconciliation, nor can it help Myanmar repair its international reputation,″ State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

The current junta took power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement. It called elections in 1990, but refused to give up power when the NLD won easily. Instead, it jailed hundreds of party workers. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

In recent years the junta has been taking steps to gain some respect from the international community, such as opening a dialogue with Suu Kyi, allowing United Nations investigators to probe human rights and labor conditions, holding Australian-sponsored human rights classes for civil servants and hosting researchers from Amnesty International.

A year ago, the government cracked down on the country’s pro-democracy movement, including the detention of Suu Kyi and other leaders of her NLD.

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