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Britain's Cameron backs Suu Kyi push for Myanmar reforms

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday he would help build international pressure on Myanmar to meet the demands of visiting opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for further reforms.

Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi says that changes to the constitution crafted by the former military regime are needed, notably those that would block her from becoming president after 2015 under a clause barring anyone whose spouses or children are foreign nationals.

Her two sons are British nationals through their father, the late scholar Michael Aris.

Speaking at Downing Street as he welcomed Suu Kyi to his official residence, Cameron said Britain would press Myanmar to make the changes.

"It would be completely wrong for elections to be held under a constitution that really excludes one person, who happens to be the leader of democracy in Burma, to be excluded from the highest office in the land," Cameron said.

"Those would be no elections at all, in my view. Those would not be democratic elections, the constitution has to be changed in that way and in other ways."

Cameron added: "We will do everything we can to build the international pressure to send the clearest possible message to the Burmese government that these changes must be made."

On her second visit to Britain after her release from years of house arrest, Suu Kyi said that while there had been some progress, more reforms were needed in Myanmar.

"The crucial issue at the moment is to make amendments to the constitution," she said.

"If the process of democratisation is to move forward, if it is to be sustainable, we have to amend the constitution to make it a democratic one, one that will ensure that the future of our society is going to be rooted in genuine democratic institutions."

Suu Kyi arrived in Britain on Wednesday after receiving the EU's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

She will travel on to Northern Ireland on Thursday to see what lessons from the peace process there can be applied to Myanmar.

Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest under military rule in Myanmar, before she was freed after controversial elections in 2010.

The democracy icon is now an opposition lawmaker as part of sweeping reforms under a new quasi-civilian regime that took office in 2011.

President Thein Sein, who took power in March 2011, has earned international plaudits and the removal of most western sanctions for reforms that include freeing hundreds of political prisoners detained under the former junta.

But the military and its political allies remain in control of parliament while religious violence and the continued arrests of activists have tempered optimism about the political reforms.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131023/britains-cameron-backs-suu-kyi-push-myanmar-reforms