Australia to lift remaining Myanmar sanctions

Australia will lift remaining sanctions against Myanmar and more than double its foreign aid to encourage democratic reforms, the country's foreign minister said Thursday after talks with the government.

Bob Carr said in a statement released by his office that targeted travel and financial sanctions would be scrapped although an arms embargo will be maintained against the country formerly known as Burma.

"This is a time of great opportunity for the people of Myanmar, and countries like Australia should be doing what we can to add momentum to the process of democratisation," he said.

"The point has been reached where lifting sanctions is the best way to promote further progress."

The statement added, however, that Australia "will retain the capacity to re-impose targeted sanctions in relation to Myanmar if required."

Canberra announced in April it would lift sanctions against President Thein Sein and more than 200 others under travel and financial bans, but kept some 130 names on the restricted list, including senior military officers and others suspected of human rights abuses. It does not impose general trade sanctions.

Australia will also increase its aid to Myanmar to Aus$100 million (US$100 million) per year by 2015, Carr announced after meetings with Thein Sein and other government ministers in the capital Naypyidaw.

"Australia's increased aid will make a real difference to reducing poverty by expanding programmes in basic education, health and livelihoods, where we are already delivering results effectively and efficiently," he said.

On Tuesday the minister met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon and invited her to visit Australia.

Myanmar has surprised observers with a series of reforms following the end of nearly half a century of military rule last year, leading Western nations to start rolling back sanctions.

In April Suu Kyi won her first ever seat in parliament and she recently made her first trip outside Myanmar in more than two decades. Later this month she is due to travel around Europe.

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