Asean says Burma sanctions should be dropped

Indonesian foreign ministry foto of Asean foreign ministers, Lombok, Indonesia 16 Jan 2011
Image caption Asean foreign ministers gathered for an informal retreat on Lombok, Indonesia

Asean foreign ministers have said that sanctions against military-ruled Burma should be dropped.

They echoed the call from five ethnic minority political groups in Burma who had earlier urged an end to sanctions.

Ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations said Burma's recent election warranted a positive international response.

Analysts have described the November elections as a sham, but Asean welcomed the voting exercise as a step forward.

The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, described the elections as "conducive and transparent" in remarks at the informal meeting of Asean ministers, held on the Indonesian island of Lombok.

Asean, which includes Burma, would like to see "the immediate or early removal or easing of sanctions that have been applied against Myanmar by some countries," Mr Natalegawa told reporters.

He described the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as "some part of the solution not the problem," in Burma.

"Asean leaders again urge, especially after the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the elections, that the policy on sanctions against Myanmar be reviewed as they have an impact on development in Myanmar," Mr Natalegawa said.

Time to act?

"Aung San Suu Kyi's release and the elections weren't enough. We encourage an open and conducive dialogue in Myanmar," he said, using the military rulers' name for Burma.

"Developments must not be allowed to dissipate," he added.

Indonesia is the current chair of Asean.

The ethnic groups said in a statement issued from inside Burma that sanctions "are causing many difficulties in the important areas of trade, investment and modern technologies for the development of ethnic regions.

"We ethnic parties together request that the United States and European countries lift sanctions," the parties said.

The five groups, which all won seats in Burma's recent elections, include: the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, the Chin National Party, the All Mon Region Democracy Party and the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party.

The US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other nations impose a variety of sanctions on dealing with the military rulers of Burma.

These include bans on trade with companies tied to the ruling generals in Burma, freezes on some firms' assets and barriers to loans and some aid.

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