September 12, 2017 / 6:53 PM / 10 months ago

Senate leader opposes 'lecturing' Myanmar leader Suu Kyi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he would not support a resolution targeting Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi over the treatment of the country’s Rohingya Muslims, and said Washington should not be “lecturing” her.

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi talks during a news conference with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Naypyitaw, Myanmar September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

“I don’t favor a resolution going after her,” McConnell, who has been engaged with issues related to Myanmar, also known as Burma, for years. “I think she’s the greatest hope that we have to move Burma from where it has been, a military dictatorship, to where I hope it’s going.”

Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Richard Durbin, a Democrat, introduced a resolution last week condemning the violence and urging Suu Kyi to act.

But McConnell said he did not support the resolution.

“My personal view is America kind of singling her out, and lecturing her when she’s in a very challenging position is not helpful. So ... I don’t intend to be a part of that,” he said at a weekly news conference by the Senate’s Republican leaders.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) faces reporters following a weekly lunch meeting with fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2017.

McConnell did not respond to a question about whether there was any consideration of reconsidering Democratic former President Barack Obama’s lifting of sanctions on Myanmar.

International pressure has been mounting on Myanmar to end violence that has sent about 370,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh. The Trump administration has called for protection of civilians, and Bangladesh has urged safe zones so refugees can return home.

While Washington has been a staunch supporter of Myanmar’s transition from decades of harsh military rule being led by Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate has been criticized as doing too little to stop the violence.

In addition to co-sponsoring the resolution, McCain, the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Tuesday he would seek to remove U.S. military cooperation with Myanmar from a sweeping defense policy bill now making its way through Congress.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, had called for expanded military cooperation.

“While I had hoped the NDAA could contribute to positive reform in Burma, I can no longer support expanding military-to-military cooperation given the worsening humanitarian crisis and human rights crackdown against the Rohingya people,” McCain said in a statement.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool and Jonathan Oatis

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