US has 'low expectations' from Burma over speedy democratic reforms in country

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Bangkok (Thailand), Nov. 6 (ANI): A top US official, who was part of a recent high-level diplomatic visit to Burma, has downplayed prospects of the Obama administration's pragmatic engagements resulting in speedy democratic reforms in that country.

The Christian Science Monitor quoted Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel, as saying that the US wants to see "real progress" in Burma, such as allowing Aung San Suu Kyi to enter 2010 elections, before it extends bilateral ties with the country''s military junta.

The low expectations of the US can be attributed to the fact that the military junta has a history of stringing visiting Western diplomats along without changing course.

Since the 1990s, successive United Nations special envoys have returned empty-handed and been snubbed by junta leaders.

On being asked what would constitute progress, Marciel declined to set benchmarks.

He said the international community wants the release of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, so that they could campaign in elections scheduled for next year.

"There is an opportunity for progress. The elections could be an opportunity. But they will only be an opportunity if they''re done right. I don''t see how there can be credible elections that bring legitimacy without inclusive participation," said Marciel, who met with Suu Kyi during the visit.

Marciel said the two sides had agreed to appoint envoys and would likely meet next week on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore, which President Obama is attending, the report said.

The two-day diplomatic meeting between the US and Burma marks the end of a Bush administration policy of isolating the regime and seeking to convince Asian powers to punish it, the report added.

Bilateral issues that might be finessed include efforts to curb Burma''s illegal drugs production and a stop to any illicit dealings with nuclear-armed North Korea. (ANI)

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