British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday that he would support suspending the European Union's economic sanctions on Myanmar, which are to be reviewed by the end of the month.
Mr. Cameron spoke after meetings with the reform-minded President Thein Sein, and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was recently elected to Parliament.
By talking of suspending rather than lifting sanctions, Mr. Cameron was making clear the move would be provisional which could easily be withdrawn, if judged necessary.
Western nations have held out the prospect of easing sanctions if Gen. Thein Sein, a former general who retains close ties to the military, continues the political liberalization he began after taking office a year ago. Foreign investors as well as Myanmar entrepreneurs expect a business boom when restrictions are lifted.
Mr. Cameron, speaking with Ms. Suu Kyi by his side, told reporters he had met Gen. Thein Sein and concluded “there are prospects of change in Burma and I think it is right for the rest of the world to respond to those changes. It is right to suspend the sanctions there are against Burma [Myanmar],” adding that the suspension would “obviously” not include ending the arms embargo.
Gen. Thein Sein's reforms are seen as being mainly driven by a desire for sanctions to be lifted, with those imposing them gradually easing restrictions in return for more reforms, which so far have included the freeing of many political prisoners and reconciliation with Ms. Suu Kyi's pro-democracy movement.
Ms. Suu Kyi who attended Oxford and whose late husband was British endorsed mr. Cameron's approach.
“I support the idea of suspension rather than the lifting of sanctions because this would be an acknowledgment of the role of the President and other reformers,” said Ms. Suu Kyi. “This suspension would have taken place because of steps taken by the President and other reformers and it would also make it quite clear to those who are against reform that should they try to obstruct the way of the reformers, then sanctions could come back.”