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EU lifts travel ban on 87 top Myanmar officials

17 February 2012, 14:37 CET
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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union lifted a travel ban on 87 Myanmar officials on Friday, including the president, in an effort to encourage more political reforms but kept an assets freeze against them.

Hailing the "remarkable programme of political reform" in Myanmar, the EU said it eased restrictions on President Thein Sein, the vice presidents, cabinet members, the speakers of the two houses of parliament and their families.

"We have seen historic changes in Burma/Myanmar and we strongly encourage the authorities to continue this process," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

The decision gave legal effect to an agreement among EU foreign ministers in January to begin easing sanctions on Myanmar. The ministers also pledged further action if the reforms continue.

The 27-nation bloc is reviewing its sanctions, which include an arms embargo, a ban on gems and an assets freeze on nearly 500 people and 900 entities. They are all due to expire on April 30.

"I will visit Burma/Myanmar in April after the by-elections, by which time I hope we will have had the chance to complete the review and to have made decisions at an EU level to respond to what I hope will be continued progress," Ashton said.

The Myanmar government assured EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs during his visit earlier this week that April's by-elections, which will herald the opposition's return to mainstream politics, will be democratic.

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