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Feb 12, 2010 (AFP)-Senator Jim Webb, who paid a rare visit to Burma last year, called Thursday for the United States to keep engaging the military regime after it handed a three-year sentence to a US citizen.
Webb, who heads the senate foreign relations subcommittee on East Asia, said he was concerned about Burma’s sentence on Thursday of activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin, who also goes by Nyi Nyi Aung.
"The circumstances of Kyaw Zaw Lwin’s arrest, confinement and trial demonstrate clearly the need for more consistent high-level engagement between our two governments," said Webb, a Democrat from Virginia.
"It is strongly in the national interest of the United States to continue to promote a democratic transition in Burma," Webb said.
Webb last year visited Burma and secured the release of an eccentric American who had swum to the home of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest.
The United States has demanded that the regime immediately release Kyaw Zaw Lwin, who has been active in Burma’s pro-democracy movement and said he returned to his native country to see his ailing mother.
The court convicted him of fraud and forgery, in part for not formally renouncing his former nationality.
The conviction led representative Howard Berman, a Democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to call on president Barack Obama’s administration to consider tightening sanctions on the regime.
The Obama administration last year entered talks with Burma to coax it out of isolation. The regime plans this year to hold elections, which Western governments and the opposition fear will be a sham.