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Meeting Suu Kyi was ‘quite a moment’: McConnell


(Mizzima) – A top U.S. lawmaker, in an address to his colleagues in the U.S. Senate, said he never thought he would get to meet Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in person. 

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who met with the Republican minority leader at her home in Rangoon on January 16, 2012. Photo: Mizzima“It was quite a moment,” Senator Mitch McConnell said, to be welcomed by her in her home in Rangoon, during his two-day visit to Burma earlier this month.

Senate Minority Leader McConnell said recent democratic changes in Burma are real and, “I am pleased to say that change is clearly in the air. It appears Burma has made some progress towards democracy in the past six months, made more than it has in decades.”

McConnell said the long isolated country’s new government has taken “undeniably positive steps towards reform.” He supported the exchange of ambassadors between Washington and Rangoon, but he said more must be done.

“The government of Burma still has a substantial way to go to achieve real and lasting reform,” McConnell said. “I do not support, and I do not think the [Obama] administration would support lifting the [U.S.] sanctions that have been imposed unless there is much further progress.”

McConnell, the senate Republican leader from Kentucky, was the original author of the United States’ sanctions legislation on Burma.

After he return from Burma this week, McConnell gave an interview to National Public Radio about what first drew his interests to Burma.

“I read about it in the newspaper like everyone else,” he said. “It was an interesting story: the uprising in '88, the election in 1990 in which Suu Kyi got 80 percent of the vote and their outrageous decision to put her under arrest for most of the next 20 years, the inability to go accept the Noble Peace price in '91.”

“All of that I found a fascinating and interesting story. Even though I thought the chance of influencing events there were quite remote, I started taking about it.”

He told NPR reporter Michele Kelemen that eventually he push the Burmese sanctions legislation through Congress, and then Suu Kyi managed to send him a hand-written note that he said he framed and hung in his office.

“To be perfectly candid with you, I wasn't all that confident things would ever change,” he said.

He said Burma’s upcoming parliamentary elections are an important test of progress, and he urged a full reconciliation between Burma’s government and the country’s ethnic minorities before sanctions are lifted.
Last Updated ( Friday, 27 January 2012 13:54 )  

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