Suu Kyi backs US sanction suspension

By Matthew Pennington ,AP

WASHINGTON — Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is cautiously backing a U.S. senator’s proposal to suspend U.S. economic sanctions.

Suu Kyi said Tuesday that suspending, rather than eliminating, sanctions would send a message that the U.S. is trying to help the country move toward democracy, but would consider other steps if the Burmese people’s aspirations aren’t met.

Her comments, made during a video link-up organized by the George W. Bush Institute in Washington, followed Sen. John McCain’s proposal Monday that the U.S. suspend all economic sanctions other than an arms embargo, as the European Union has done.

“This is a possible first step,” Suu Kyi said from the main Myanmar city of Yangon to an audience that included the former U.S. president and his wife, Laura Bush. “I am not against the suspension of sanctions as long as the people of the United States think this is the right thing to do at the moment.”

Suu Kyi has given a similar endorsement to the EU move. However, she cautioned Tuesday against undue optimism about the situation in the country, which is also known as Burma. She said political reform would only be irreversible when the military — which has dominated government rule for five decades — officially committed itself to democracy.

She did not elaborate, but later said a principal aim of her party was to reform the constitution, which guarantees a quarter of parliamentary seats to the military, and strengthen the legislature so it becomes “a genuine democratic institution.”