Thein Sein to make first US trip as president

Myanmar leader Thein Sein is to visit the United States for the first time as president of the fast-reforming nation, officials said, after Washington waived visa restrictions.

Thein Sein, who has ushered in a period of sweeping change for Myanmar since nearly half a century of military rule ended last year, will travel to the US to attend a United Nations General Assembly.

"The president will visit the UN and US for three days," a Myanmar official told AFP on Wednesday, adding that the Myanmar leader is set to leave for the US on September 24.

US President Barack Obama last month ordered an exception to a visa ban on Myanmar's leaders to let Thein Sein travel freely during the UN summit.

The Myanmar president, who last attended the General Assembly in 2009 as prime minister under the previous junta regime, would otherwise have been confined to a narrow area around the UN headquarters in New York.

Thein Sein's visit to the US follows soon after opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to visit the country for the first time since she began her campaign for democracy -- and long years of house arrest -- under the junta two decades ago.

Suu Kyi, who was elected to parliament this year in a dramatic sign of Myanmar's reforms, will travel Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal as part of her visit.

The medal is the top honour bestowed by the US Congress, which voted to award it to Suu Kyi in May 2008 when the prospect of her leaving Myanmar looked remote.

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