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Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Obama says US Sanctions on Myanmar to be Lifted as Aung San Suu Kyi Visits

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(Photo : Getty Images) Aung San Suu Kyi meets Obama at Washington D.C.

The United States tacitly acknowledged the position of Aung San Suu Kyi as the de facto head of state of Myanmar by indicting it would lift some of the economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar 20 years ago after a military junta took power in that country.

Officially, Suu Kyi is foreign minister and self-appointed state counselor (a role somewhat like a prime minister). Her international stature, however, makes her the only high-level official in a government still dominated by the Myanmar Army capable of softening economic and diplomatic sanctions that continue to isolate Myanmar.

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Suu Kyi arrived in the United States Sept. 14 and will stay for some two weeks. She will meet President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and members of the U.S. Congress. She will also attend the UN General Assembly in New York from Sept. 20 to 26 and confer with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Obama said after meeting Suu Kyi he was prepared to lift sanctions on Myanmar after the country's democratic transformation and the United States' perceptions it was making more progress towards restoring democratic institutions. Obama, however, didn't specify which sanctions will be lifted, but said this action would come "soon."

As part of this de-escalation, Obama has to rescind a two decade old executive order that declares Myanmar a "national emergency." This move will enable the lifting of sanctions that prevented broad economic investment in Myanmar.

"In part because of the progress we've seen over the last several months, I indicated after consulting with Daw Suu that the United States is now prepared to lift sanctions we've imposed upon Burma for quite some time," said Obama.

"It is the right thing to do in order to ensure the people of Burma see the rewards from a new way of doing business and a new government."

The U.S. still officially refers to Myanmar as Burma while Daw Suu is an honorific title for Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi said it was time to remove all the sanctions she said had hurt her country's economy. She noted Myanmar is now in a position to open up to investments. She said she wants Americans to come to Myanmar and "to make profits."

Obama also revealed Washington will add Myanmar its list of developing countries granted special trade status, thereby allowing the duty-free importation of some 5,000 products.

Some sanctions will remain on Myanmar, including an arms ban to ensure the military remains a partner in the democratic transition.

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