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Junta chief congratulates Obama

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November 8, 2008

Junta chief congratulates Obama
Myanmar’s military leader General Than Shwe has sent a formal diplomatic note of congratulation to President-elect Barack Obama, AFP quoted the country’s state media as saying Saturday.

'Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of the Union of Myanmar, has sent a congratulatory message to the Honourable Mr Barack Hussein Obama, on the occasion of his election,' the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on its front page.

The paper gave no further details of the rare communication by the junta leaders to the US.

Myanmar's opposition pro-democracy party on Wednesday cautiously welcomed the election of Obama as the next US president, but said time would tell if he could help open up the military-run country.

The United States' presidential campaign has been splashed on the pages of newspapers around the world for the past year, but in Myanmar's state-run media it has barely featured.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962, and is under economic sanctions by the United States and Europe over human rights abuses and the long-running detention of pro-democracy leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The United States has been Myanmar's harshest critic, pushing for UN Security Council resolutions against the isolated nation, which has responded by accusing US leaders of plotting to overthrow the government.

On Friday the US State Department condemned the regime for taking legal action against several lawyers defending student activists.

'These actions represent a blatant attempt by the regime to intimidate these lawyers and demonstrate its contempt for the rule of law,' State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said in statement.

Washington also urged the regime 'to release all political prisoners immediately, and to begin a genuine dialogue with democratic and ethnic minority groups on a transition to a civilian, democratic government in' Myanmar, Wood said.

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