US lifts sanctions on Myanmar president, parliament speaker

The United States lifted sanctions on Myanmar President Thein Sein and parliament speaker Thura Shwe Mann, a day after democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi landed in the US for the first time since being freed from prison.

Both were dropped without comment from the US Treasury's list of "Specially Designated Nationals" sanctioning individuals and companies for links to terrorism, narcotics or other illegal activities.

The two were placed on the SDN list in 2007 as the US raised pressure on the ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council, where Thein Sein, then prime minister, served as first secretary and Shwe Mann, then joint chief of staff of the armed forces, was a member.

Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate held under house arrest for 15 years by the military dictatorship, called for a relaxation of US sanctions on the country.

"I do not think that we need to cling onto sanctions unnecessarily because I want our people to be responsible for their own destiny and not to depend too much on external props," Suu Kyi said in a speech at the Asia Society Tuesday.

Now a member of parliament, Suu Kyi said she believes Thein Sein is "keen" on change but said the judiciary -- and not the executive -- was the "weakest arm" of the reform.

"We have passed a first hurdle, but there are many more hurdles to cross," she said.

On the eve of Suu Kyi's trip to Washington, Myanmar authorities freed another 87 political prisoners in what analysts saw as a new gesture by Thein Sein ahead of his arrival in the United States next week.

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