Friday, April 20, 2012

E.U. to suspend most Burma sanctions for a year

Friday, 20 April 2012 11:57 Mizzima News

The European Union has reached a preliminary decision to lift most sanctions against Burma for one year in response to the country's recent democratic reforms.

Several E.U. diplomats said Thursday almost all sanctions against Burma are expected to be suspended, with the exception of an arms embargo.

The move is expected to be approved on Monday during a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

Officials say the 12-month suspension is meant to encourage additional reforms by Burma's nominally civilian government, which took power last year after decades of military rule.

Elsewhere, a leading Japanese newspaper says Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is set to waive Burma's $3.7 billion debt and resume suspended assistance to the Southeast Asian nation.

The Asahi Shimbun says Noda is set to announce the two-phase waiver during a meeting later this week with Burmese President Thein Sein.

Thein Sein opens a four-day visit to Japan Friday. He will be the first Burmese head of state to visit the country in nearly three decades.

The Burmese leader's Tokyo visit is the latest in a flurry of international initiatives spawned by the new, nominally civilian government, which began crafting a series of democratic reforms after taking power last year. E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton travels to Burma next week.

Ashton, speaking earlier this week said the E.U. is ready to enter an “active collaboration” with Burma to “assist the reform process and to contribute to economic, political and social development.”

Several Western nations, including the United States and Britain, have rewarded those reforms by lifting some of the many long-standing sanctions against Burma.

But many foreign governments are waiting to see if Burma will release additional political prisoners and end decades-long conflicts with rebel groups before they lift the remaining sanctions.

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