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Burma Hits Back at Rights Criticism - 2003-05-11


Following U.S. criticism, Burma's military government has issued another statement insisting that it wants to improve its human rights record.

The statement, faxed to Western news agencies, says Rangoon is taking what it calls "steady and tangible steps" toward democracy. It urges the United States to help that political transition by ending crippling economic sanctions imposed years ago.

Among those sanctions are an investment ban, travel restrictions for Burmese officials, and an arms embargo. Several major U.S. cities and states also have adopted sanctions that bar government purchases from companies doing business in Burma.

Washington is a staunch supporter of Burma's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi -- whom the military has kept under house arrest for much of the past 15 years since coming to power. She and the government quietly entered into talks in October of 2000, but there has been little progress.

The U.S. State Department earlier this week accused Burma's ruling generals of oppressing their people, harassing Aung San Suu Kyi and limiting her political party's activities.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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