02/26/2013, 00.00
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Thein Sein in Europe, to promote trade and diplomatic relations

The Burmese President arrives today in Norway, the first stop of a tour that will take in Finland, Austria, Belgium and Italy. After his visit to the United States, a new step towards the modernization of Myanmar. The U.S. Treasury Department removes sanctions on two Burmese businessmen, linked in the past to the military junta.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The President of Myanmar Thein Sein is traveling to Norway, a nation which has a large representation of the Burmese diaspora, the first stage of a historic European tour that will also take in Finland, Austria, Belgium and Italy, and will end March 8. The head of state will meet the highest political officials of the European Union and hold bilateral talks with individual governments, focusing on the political and economic reforms initiated by the Asian country and the inherent issue of human rights. Last year, the former general of the military junta in power until March 2011, travelled to the United States for the first official visit by a leader of the Burmese government in 46 years.

Experts in international relations point out that the five countries on Thein Sein's schedule are not primary powers in "commercial and political" terms on the Old Continent, but every step taken by Myanmar - isolated for decades - towards the outside needs to be followed "with careful attention". In fact it indicates progressive change and a process of modernization of a democratic nature that is apparently evolving.

For months, Washington and Brussels - which last year provided 100 million US dollars in aid to Myanmar - have loosened the economic and trade sanctions on Burma, opening the door to trade with a nation indicated by many as a possible "next Asian tiger". The decision was spurred on by the political and social reforms as well as the release of hundreds of political prisoners, as well as the entrance to Parliament of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi held under forced house arrest for years by the dictatorship.

Meanwhile, two banks owned by businessmen who in the past had woven ties with the military junta, are once again free to do business with U.S. companies and investors. This is laid down by the U.S. Treasury Department, which issued a license in favor of four of the main banks of Myanmar: the Myanma Economic Bank, Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank, Asia Green Development Bank and Ayeyarwady Bank. Sources in the U.S. economy ministry point out that "it is time that relations between Myanmar and the United States move ahead to the next level."

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