U.S. Senate's Webb to visit Myanmar this month

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 6, 2009 12:44pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Jim Webb will visit Myanmar this month, the first member of Congress to travel to the southeast Asian country in more than a decade, his office said on Thursday.

Webb, who chairs a Senate subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific affairs, leaves on Sunday for a five-nation, two-week trip "to explore opportunities to advance U.S. interests in Burma (Myanmar) and the region," a statement from his office said.

A Vietnam war veteran and former U.S. Navy Secretary who speaks Vietnamese, Webb will also meet government representatives and industry leaders in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, his office said.

U.S. lawmakers are pushing for the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, but Webb, a Virginia Democrat, is not expected to see her during his visit, an aide to the senator said.

U.S. relations with Myanmar's military junta have been strained for years. In May, President Barack Obama extended for one year a ban on U.S. investment first imposed in 1997 because of the authorities' repression of the opposition. Last week, Obama renewed sanctions targeting imports from Myanmar.

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