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U.S. Senate leader eases pressure on Myanmar

May 22, 2013 at 10:06 AM

WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- There's been enough political progress in Myanmar that an extension of economic sanctions won't be necessary, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

U.S. President Barack Obama met this week with Myanmar President Thein Sein and said he's seen significant progress in political and economic reforms. However, he also said he had concerns about the security situation in Myanmar.

McConnell, R-Ky., who sponsored legislation that placed economic sanctions on Myanmar, said he wasn't going to press the issue further because of political reforms.

"I will not be making an effort to renew those sanctions this year, based upon consultations with the State Department," he said in a statement.

Some U.S. sanctions on Myanmar were eased in 2012. The European Union followed suit in response to Myanmar's progress earlier this year.

Human rights group expressed concern over the decisions, saying it was sanctions pressure that encouraged many of the political reforms in the first place. Efforts to curb violence in the country haven't kept pace with political progress, they said.

McConnell said the Obama administration "extended an olive branch" to Myanmar and it was time for Congress to do the same.

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