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Myanmar extends 'warm welcome' to Obama before visit

Published on Nov 10, 2012 2:22 PM

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar's government has said it "warmly welcomes" the historic visit of US President Barack Obama later this month, expressing hope that his trip will bolster the nation's political reform drive.

Mr Obama, who was re-elected this week, will meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein on the first visit to the country by a sitting US president. Myanmar officials say the visit will take place on Nov 19.

His visit "is warmly welcomed" and will "strengthen the resolve" of Mr Thein Sein to "move forward" with reforms, a spokesman for Myanmar's Presidential Office said late on Friday.

Mr Obama's visit shows "concrete support for the democratisation process of President Thein Sein, Daw (honorific) Aung San Suu Kyi, Members of Parliaments and the Myanmar people," Mr Zaw Htay said in a statement.

"President Thein Sein fully believes that the trip of President Obama will push the momentum of the process of democratic reform," he added.

Myanmar is emerging from decades of military rule and has embarked on a series of political and economic reforms that have won praise from the West.

In September, Washington rolled out a red carpet welcome for Ms Suu Kyi when she visited the White House and held private talks with Mr Obama.

During her trip, which dovetailed with a visit by Mr Thein Sein to the United Nations, Washington lifted a raft of sanctions on Myanmar that had been imposed to punish the suppression of Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

Washington ended sanctions on American investment in Myanmar in July, enabling a major US trade delegation to visit the country.

Global corporate giants from Coca-Cola to General Electric have already begun to vie for a share of an expected economic boom in the long-isolated nation.

The White House said on Thursday that Mr Obama would also visit Thailand and attend the East Asia summit in Cambodia during the Nov 17-20 trip, which will mark his return to the world stage following his re-election.