Wednesday, January 4, 2012

U.S. disappointed in political prisoner release


Wednesday, 04 January 2012 12:17 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – A U.S. state department spokesperson said Burma’s political prisoner release was not significant enough for the U.S. to match by establishing better relations.

"Its not a step of the magnitude that we would be interested in matching," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The presidential commutation was not directed at political prisoners, which western governments including the United States say should be released before they can lift economic sanctions and increase aid, which was cut off during the period of military rule.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Burma in December and said Washington could further open up to the country if its new civilian government undertook greater reforms including a release of all political prisoners and greater democratic openness.

But Nuland said the U.S., like the rest of the international community, wanted to see all political prisoners freed.

"We wanted to see this as soon as possible. We didn't set any timeline on it, but we made clear that it was one of the vital steps before which it would be difficult for us to make significantly more steps towards normalization on our own side," she said.

U.S. officials say there are about 1,000 political prisoners still behind bars in Burma, although some watchdog groups put the number closer to 600.

In October, Burma released around 230 political prisoners, one of a series of steps that prompted President Barack Obama to endorse tentative moves to open to the country after decades of diplomatic isolation.

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