US special envoy in Burma for government talks

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi Last month the new government's president met with Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time

The US Special Representative for Burma, Derek Mitchell, has arrived in the country for talks with the new nominally civilian government.

Mr Mitchell is also expected to meet pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well as a wide range of people from Burma's political and civil groups.

The US state department says the week-long trip is part of Washington's policy to engage with Burma.

It is seen as an opportunity for Mr Mitchell to press for genuine reform.

This is Mr Mitchell's first visit as the US special envoy to Burma.

He was appointed by US President Barack Obama earlier this year, in a move that many in Washington read as a sign of the US commitment to push for greater dialogue and change within Burma's military-backed government.

Mr Mitchell is expected to meet a wide range of people from Burma's political and civil groups during his visit, including opposition party leaders and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But analysts say key to the success of this trip will be the level of access Mr Mitchell is given to the new administration.

It will be a critical reflection of how much the new government wants to engage with the West.

Mr Mitchell is expected to raise America's concerns about human rights violations and the imprisonment of the estimated 2,000 political detainees in Burmese jails.

The newly installed civilian government has made several moves recently to try to improve Burma's international reputation.

It has set up a human rights commission, and last month the new government's president met with Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time.

The meeting, and other moves are all being seen as part of the new administration's strategy to soften its image, in a bid, many say, to see the lifting of sanctions.

But any lifting of sanctions following Mr Mitchell's visit is highly unlikely - analysts say the trip will not see a reversal of US policy towards Burma.

Rather, it will be an opportunity for Mr Mitchell to assess how well the process of democratic reform is going in the country.

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