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French Foreign Minister Meets Burmese Opposition Figure

Lisa Bryant January 15, 2012

France's top diplomatic envoy met with Burma's leading opposition figure Sunday, as he became the latest Western official to visit the Asian nation following a series of fast-paced reforms. The trip comes shortly after the United States restored full diplomatic ties with Burma.

The visit by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is the latest sign of Western approval of recent reforms by the new civilian government in Burma, after years of authoritarian rule.

In Rangoon, Juppe met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to whom France is giving its highest award, the Legion of Honor.

At a news conference, Aung San Suu Kyi said she hoped the Burmese government's recent release of more than 650 prisoners, including many political activists, will reinforce the process of democratization and national reconciliation in her country.

The French minister's trip to Burma follows a similar visit in December by Hillary Clinton, who became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit the Asian nation in more than half a century. On Friday, Washington restored full diplomatic ties with Burma, following the prisoner release.

Juppe told reporters he had met with some of the newly freed prisoners and had saluted their courage and dignity. He said France and the European Union will consider how to adapt sanctions and their relations with Burmese authorities in light of the country's democratic progress.

Juppe is expected to meet Monday with Burma's president, Thein Sein, in the capital. The French envoy has welcomed the recent Burmese government reforms as "historic."

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