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March 26, 2009

US clarifies Myanmar policy after rare talks
A surprise meeting this week between a senior US official and Myanmar's junta does not signal a change in US policy towards the military-ruled nation, AFP quoted the State Department as saying Wednesday.

Stephen Blake, the State Department's director of Southeast Asian Affairs, met Foreign Minister Nyan Win in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said.

"His visit does not reflect a change in policy or approach to Burma," Duguid said.

"Office director-level officials, including Mr. Blake's two immediate predecessors, have visited Burma and met with Burmese officials on a number of occasions in recent years."

Duguid said a review of US policy toward Myanmar announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "is still underway."

"While we have not yet finalized our approach, we remain committed to encouraging a genuine dialogue between the Burmese authorities and opposition that leads to a free and democratic Burma that respects the rights of its diverse citizens and is at peace with its neighbors," he said.

Blake's visit was first disclosed by the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper, which said Blake and Nyan Win held "cordial discussions on issues of mutual interest and promotion of bilateral relations."

Duguid stressed that Blake also met with representatives of the opposition during his visit, notably leaders of the National League for Democracy of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

An NLD spokesman, also called Nyan Win, said the party's central committee met Blake at its headquarters for an hour in the afternoon but the US official would not reveal Washington's likely future stance towards Myanmar or Aung San Suu Kyi.

"He (Blake) asked us about the NLD's opinions on the recent political situation and the coming 2010 election. We also asked him about the policy of the US State Department," the spokesman told AFP.

"We told him that we haven't decided yet whether or not to participate in the elections but we told him the important thing for us is to review the state constitution and to begin dialogue" with authorities.

The spokesman said Blake "did not bring any message from the authorities. He did not mention about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."

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