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Burma sanctions could be lifted: John McCain

Sen. John McCain says Burma sanctions could be lifted if April elections are free and fair.

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Activists of the Kachin National Organisation and Burmese protestors living in exile in India hold placards during a protest. AFP PHOTO/ MANAN VATSYAYANA (MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

US sanctions against Burma could be lifted if the elections scheduled for April 1 are held fairly and openly, said Sen. John McCain on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The Burmese government has been implementing sweeping changes in the political landscape in a bid to thaw relations with the international community.

McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman were in Vietnam, ahead of a trip to Burma, when Lieberman said Burma could expect “some response from the United States in terms of the status quo between our countries as it exists now,” if the elections held in April were free, open and fair.

McCain added that “lifting of the sanctions, or some of them, would be part of that consideration.”

On Thursday, Burma, also known as Myanmar, held talks with the Kachin Independence Army, another rebel group that has been fighting the government for decades, according to the Associated Press. Though the preliminary meeting did not end in any breakthrough, both sides decided to keep the channels of communication open.

"It is most important to build confidence and trust between each other, and a lot of tension will be reduced if government troops withdraw from the KIO areas," said Kachin mediator, Rev. Saboi Jum.

Just last week, on Jan. 12, Burma signed a cease-fire agreement with the Karen Rebels. The next day, Burma released 651 prisoners, many of them political activists, opposition figures, dissidents and students. The Economist reported that many of the prisoners who were released included members of the “88 Generation” movement, so named for the student uprisings in 1988 and later.

More on GlobalPost: Despite reforms, ethnic minorities skeptical in Burma

The concessions prompted the US to restore full diplomatic relations with Burma, as President Thein Sein worked to “reform the economy, allow political competition and end the country’s economic and diplomatic dependence on China,” according to The New York Times.

According to the Burma government’s peace negotiators, Sein would like to hold “a conference in parliament aimed at cementing all the separate ceasefire agreements and ensuring the conflicts would not reignite,” reported Reuters.  

More on GlobalPost: Burma ceasefire: troops ordered to suspend attacks on ethnic militias

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120119/burma-sanctions-could-lift-says-senator-john-mccain