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U.N. chief arrives in Myanmar to promote democratic reforms

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived Sunday in Myanmar to see how the world body can help promote the country's tentative steps toward democratic reform.

Ban will meet President U Thein Sein and visit a U.N. drug control project during the three-day visit. He also paid his respects at the tomb of U Thant, a Myanmar diplomat who was U.N. secretary-general in 1961-71.

His visit is the latest in a series by foreign dignitaries since Thein Sein's reform campaign gathered steam by winning the endorsement of the leader of Myanmar's democracy movement, formerly jailed Aung San Suu Kyi. Thein Sein came to power a year ago after a general election that left the military in firm control but signaled a desire for political reconciliation.

Also currently visiting Myanmar are German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief. Since January, Myanmar has also hosted the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Canada, as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron. Their visits have heralded the easing of sanctions their governments had maintained against Myanmar because of the previous military regime's repressive policies.

Western nations had held out the prospect of easing sanctions if Thein Sein, a former general who retains close ties to the military, continues the political liberalization he began after taking office a year ago. The European Union last week announced it was suspending for a year, rather than dropping outright, most of its sanctions as a way of sustaining pressure for change. An arms embargo remains in place because of counterinsurgency campaigns Myanmar's army continues to carry out against rebel ethnic minorities.

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