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President Barack Obama on Friday formally extended sanctions against Burma, keeping US pressure on a military regime aiming to hold its first elections in more than two decades later this year.
Obama extended the emergency sanctions, first employed in May 1997, “because the actions and policies of the government of Burma continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” he said in a message to Congress.
The move, merely a formality, bars American firms from investing in and bans Burmese exports to the United States. The sanctions also target individuals in and linked to the Burmese junta.
The extension comes just days after the National League for Democracy (NLD) headed by pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was forcibly dissolved after refusing to meet a 6 May deadline to re-register as a political party – a move that would have forced it to expel its own leader.
The dissolution was prompted by widely criticized laws governing the elections, which are scheduled for some time later this year.
Under election legislation unveiled in March, anyone serving a prison term is banned from being a member of a political party and parties that fail to obey the rule will be abolished.
The junta has kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for nearly 20 years. The Nobel peace laureate led her party to victory in 1990 but the junta never allowed the election to stand.
The 64-year-old Nobel peace laureate was allowed to meet this week with a top US diplomat visiting the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi met for some 90 minutes Monday with assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell at a government guest house.
Campbell said after his talks with Suu Kyi and government officials that the United States was “profoundly disappointed” in the junta’s preparations for upcoming elections and wanted “immediate steps” to address fears that they would lack legitimacy.