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Myanmar leader embarks on trip to London and Paris

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

President Thein Sein left Myanmar Sunday for a visit to Britain and France, an official said, as the former junta general looks to build on support for his much-lauded reforms.

"The president left Yangon this morning to visit Britain and France," a government official told AFP without giving further details of the visit, Thein Sein's second trip to Europe in months.

Another official earlier said the trip would be from July 14 to 18.

Thein Sein visited several European countries in March -- although not Britain or France -- to bolster relations.

The former general has surprised the international community by overseeing sweeping reforms since taking the presidency in 2011.

Those changes include freeing hundreds of political prisoners and welcoming democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party into parliament.

The European Union, which had already ditched most sanctions except an arms embargo, has readmitted Myanmar to its trade preference scheme, saying it wanted to support reform in the once-pariah state through economic development.

Washington has also lifted most embargoes and foreign companies are now eager to enter the resource-rich nation, with its perceived frontier market of some 60 million potential consumers.

Barack Obama paid a first-ever US presidential visit to Myanmar last November, and Thein Sein visited Washington in May.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130714/myanmar-leader-embarks-trip-london-and-paris