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U.S. To Exchange Ambassadors With Myanmar

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is ready to exchange ambassadors with Myanmar in response to its freeing political prisoners and other reforms.
"This is a substantial and serious step forward in the government's stated commitment to political reform, and I applaud it, and the entire international community should as well," Clinton said.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, pardoned prominent dissidents on January 13 under a prisoner amnesty. A former prime minister detained in 2004 also has been freed from house arrest. State television announced that a total of 651 prisoners would be freed under the presidential pardon. It did not say how many are political prisoners.
The release of political prisoners has long been a demand of the West, which imposes sanctions on Myanmar. The highest level U.S. diplomat based in Myanmar currently is a charge d'affaires.
Democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party hailed the release as a "positive sign."
U.S. President Barack Obama said he applauds the decision as “a substantial step forward for democratic reform.” But Obama said much more remains to be done to meet "the aspirations of the Burmese people.”
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton hailed the release as a "courageous" step by the army-backed regime.

compiled from agency reports