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12 November 2009 

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US Leaders May Interact With Burmese at Singapore Summit

12 November 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks to reporters during Manila press conference, 12 Nov 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks to reporters during Manila press conference, 12 Nov 2009
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she or President Barack Obama might meet Burmese leaders in the context of a U.S.-ASEAN summit Sunday in Singapore. The Obama administration is pressing Burmese military leaders to release detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and hold free, fair and credible elections next year.

The Obama administration shelved the isolation strategy of its predecessor and is trying dialogue with the Burmese military government to push it toward reform.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says there are no formal meetings planned, but she left open the possibility that she and President Barack Obama might interact with Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein or other officials when they take part in a U.S.-ASEAN summit-level dialogue Sunday in Singapore.

Two senior U.S. diplomats went to Burma last week to open the dialogue and at a Manila news conference with Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, Clinton called the mission by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell and his deputy Scott Marciel "very successful."

The two State Department officials were allowed to hold a private, unmonitored meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Clinton said the United States continues to demand the unconditional release of the Nobel Peace laureate, who has been detained most of the time since 1990, when her National League for Democracy party won national elections but was barred by the military from taking power.

"We are trying to encourage Burma to conduct the kind of internal dialogue with all of the stakeholders including Aung San Suu Kyi that could lead to there being fair, free and credible elections next year," she said.

"We think that is an essential first step. We are continuing to call for the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi. We believe that her detention over so many years is baseless and not funded on any concern other than that she is a leader of the political opposition," she added.

Clinton said Aung San Suu Kyi "has every right" to resume an active role in politics and that her future role would be something the Burmese people, and not the United States, would have to decide.

She said the United States would be highly skeptical of an election process that did not include representatives of all elements of the political opposition. She urged active involvement by Burma's neighbors to spur reform.

"What we want to do, along with friends like the Philippines and other ASEAN members is to encourage, urge, persuade the leadership of Burma to enter into this dialogue with their own people-to create the conditions for legitimacy that should be apparent when you have an election, and that is what we are looking to achieve," said the secretary of state.

Clinton said despite the outreach to Burma, the Obama administration is not dropping human rights related sanctions, which include a virtually total U.S. trade ban against that country.

Sunday's summit of the United States and ASEAN - the Association of Southeast Asian nations - will take place on the sidelines of the broader 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore.  

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