World News

U.S. to press Myanmar on reform: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States plans to meet officials from Myanmar soon and will seek more evidence it is ready to enact political reforms in return for broader dialogue with Washington, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, who in November led a U.S. team to Yangon for the highest level talks in 14 years, said Washington had seen a “mixed bag” of results from overtures to the military junta in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

“We have had some follow-on direct interactions with (the) Burmese authorities, and I think we’re going to be looking at a subsequent set of discussions in the near future,” Campbell told a news briefing.

Washington last year said it would pursue deeper engagement with Myanmar’s military rulers to try to spur democratic reform but would not ease economic sanctions for now.

Campbell noted some progress, including higher level contacts between the government and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who has been in various forms of detention for 14 of the last 20 years.

But he said there were also problems, including Myanmar’s treatment of ethnic minority groups and other issues, and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her team would be “looking for greater clarity in the coming weeks.”

“We went into this ... with a very clear understanding of the challenges,” Campbell told a news briefing. “But it is also the case that we’re not unendingly patient. We will need some clear steps in due course.”

The State Department has already voiced concern over Myanmar’s plan to hold general elections this year -- the first since 1990, when the junta ignored the results and instead jailed more than 2,000 activists and political opponents, many for minor offenses.

Myanmar’s leaders have as yet given no schedule for the vote, which activists say could simply entrench more than five decades of military rule by yielding a legislature dominated by the military and its civilian allies.

Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Vicki Allen