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Suu Kyi hails historic moment in Myanmar as Clinton visits

media US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enthusiastically greets Myanmar oppositon … Reuters/Saul Loeb/Pool

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday declared that the country has reached a “historic moment” as she and State Hillary Clinton posed for the cameras at the end the US Secretary of State’s visit to the south-east Asian nation.

Suu Kyi called welcomed Washington’s “careful and calibrated” engagement with the military-led government, which has carried out a number of reforms recently.

"If we move forward together I am confident there will be no turning back on the road to democracy," Suu Kyi said. "We are not on that road yet, but we hope to get there as soon as possible with the help and understanding of our friends."

Suu Kyi called for changes made in Burmese-majority areas to be enacted in ethnic-minority areas, where armed rebel groups are active.

"All hostilities must cease within this country as soon as possible," she said. "Whatever we do in the predominantly Burmese areas we hope will be matched by similar programmes and projects in the ethnic nationality areas. Because we are a union of many peoples and in a union of many peoples there must be equality."

Clinton, who announced some steps towards normalising relations with Myanmar when she visited the capital, Naypyidaw, said she had seen “openings” that “give us some grounds for encouragement” during her three-day visit, the first by a secretary of state for 50 years.

She said more significant incentives will be offered, but only if the government releases all political prisoners, ends military action against ethnic minorities, respects the rule of law and improves human rights conditions.

And she announced that 1.2 million dollars (890,000 euros) in grants to civil society groups to help microfinance, health care and help for landmine victims.

But, she added, “We are still at the very early stages of this dialogue.”

Amid widespread media comments that Clinton’s visit is part of a policy to contain China, Suu Kyi declared that her National League for Democracy (NLD) wants “good, friendly relations with China, our very close neighbour”.

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