Australia lifts sanctions against Myanmar, doubles aid

CANBERRA Thu Jun 7, 2012 8:08pm EDT

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia will lift its remaining financial and travel sanctions against Myanmar and double its aid in a move to encourage further democratic reform as the country tentatively emerges from decades of military rule, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said.

The lifting of economic sanctions, which follows a U.S. suspension of sanctions, will come into effect in coming weeks but Australia's arms embargo against Myanmar will remain in place, Carr said in a statement.

"Myanmar has made great strides over the past year, though there is more to be done," Carr said.

"The point has been reached where lifting sanctions is the best way to promote further progress," he said.

Carr met President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday during a visit to the former Burma.

Myanmar has been slowly putting in place democratic reforms that have attracted the interest of investors and persuaded Western governments to suspend or lift sanctions.

In April, Australia outlined its plan to ease sanctions and normalize bilateral trade relations in recognition of the reforms over the past year. Ruled by a military dictatorship for most of its contemporary history, Myanmar held parliamentary by-elections in April.

The United States announced the suspension of sanctions against Myanmar in May, allowing U.S. energy, mining and financial services companies to look for opportunities in an economy that had been run down by five decades of military rule.

Carr said President Thein Sein and Suu Kyi had also been invited to visit Australia and that Australia will more than double its annual aid to Myanmar, one of the poorest countries in the world, to A$100 million ($99 million) by 2015.

($1 = 1.0063 Australian dollars)

(Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Paul Tait)

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