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ASEAN Foreign Ministers Call For Lifting Of Myanmar Sanctions

An informal meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has called for the lifting of economic sanctions against the military regime of Myanmar.

The meeting, held on the Indonesian island of Lombok, made the call citing "significant" political progress made in the south-east Asian country.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, whose country holds the rotating chair of the ten-nation organization, told reporters: "We believe that the recent development needs to be responded by the international community, especially in order to ensure that the economic development in Myanmar can take place."

He says ASEAN Ministers feel that the recent long-awaited Myanmar elections, which he described as "conducive and transparent, and the release of Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi warranted a positive international response.

Suu Kyi was released after seven years' house detention on November 13 within hours of the USDP, the political arm of the junta, ensuring victory in the election in which both she and her party were denied participation.

Western countries condemned conduct of the elections, with the United States alleging that the electoral process was "severely flawed, precluded an inclusive, level-playing field, and repressed fundamental freedoms."

Myanmar's Supreme Court rejected a petition by the 64-year-old democracy icon to restore legitimacy to the country's disbanded main Opposition party, National League for Democracy (NLD).

NLD was denied power despite winning a landslide victory in the 1990 general elections, as the junta refused to recognize the results.

Together with the majority members of the ruling party, the new government can pass or veto any legislation in the Parliament that need not meet more than once a year.

It will bring Myanmar in line with the Communist Party-controlled Chinese political system, analysts say.

ASEAN Foreign Ministers have also called for an open and conducive dialogue in Myanmar.

Five ethnic parties that won seats in the Parliament have requested the United States and European countries to lift sanctions.

The U.S. has extended sanctions on the Myanmar junta and renewed ban on all imports from that South East Asian country.

The European Union, Australia, and New Zealand are among those implemented punitive actions against the military administration

These include bans on trade with companies that have links with the ruling generals, asset-freezes on some companies and loans and aid embargo.

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