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U.S. Sen. McConnell to meet with Myanmar opposition leader

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:34 PM EST, Thu January 12, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The U.S. Senate minority leader advocates reform and democracy in Myanmar
  • McConnell will meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
  • The face-to-face meeting will be the first for them

Washington (CNN) -- U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will meet next week with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, government officials and U.S. embassy personnel in the Southeast Asia country, he said Thursday.

The Republican from Kentucky plans to discuss political reform, bilateral relations and regional security issues with Suu Kyi and the Myanmar leaders.

McConnell will arrive in the country on Sunday and return to the United States on Wednesday.

McConnell advocates political reform, reconciliation and democracy in Myanmar, he said.

Since 2003, McConnell, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, has introduced and enacted legislation placing sanctions on the Myanmar government.

He also consistently called for the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

Myanmar signs cease-fire with rebel group; Suu Kyi joins elections

Since Suu Kyi's release, McConnell has spoken with her several times on the phone. Next week's visit will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, U.S. diplomats met with Suu Kyi in another sign of thawing relations between Washington and the Southeast Asian nation.

Derek Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy to Myanmar, and Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for human trafficking, held talks with Suu Kyi at her residence.

The U.S. delegation arrived in the country Monday and has met with top government officials.

The meetings also coincide with an announcement by government officials that Myanmar has begun peace talks with a major rebel group, signing a cease fire with the Karen National Liberation Army.

Myanmar has been ruled by a military junta since 1962, and the generals have started to loosen their grip on the country after coming under criticism for their human rights record in recent years. Thein Sein, a former military official and prime minister, became president last year as a result of an election criticized by democracy activists as a sham.

Myanmar authorities released Suu Kyi in 2010 after years of house arrest and then freed dozens of political prisoners in October 2011. Last week, she met with William Hague, the first British foreign secretary to visit Myanmar in more than 50 years.

Burma was a part of British India from 1886 until gaining its independence in 1948. Since 1989, the ruling military has said the nation should be called Myanmar, but some Western nations still refer to it as Burma.

CNN's Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

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