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Suu Kyi: Keep sanctions until by-elections
Irrawaddy - February 14, 2012
The Nobel Laureate made the remarks in a press conference with German Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Dirk Niebel in Rangoon on Tuesday.
"I agree with those who think that the question of whether sanctions are lifted should be left until after the by-elections," Suu Kyi told reporters.
"If the run-up to the elections is free and fair and the voting is free and fair then it would certainly be time for the European Union to start thinking about lifting some of the sanctions. As always, discussions with members of the European Union are very important to us as we look upon them as our allies in the democratic process."
Suu Kyi is standing for one of 48 parliamentary seats available seats in the April 1 ballot. The general election in 2010 was widely condemned for vote rigging.
Suu Kyi is standing in the rural township of Kawhmu, southern Rangoon Division, which is known as a poor neighborhood. And the 66-year-old said that the process of unfettered campaigning is an important component for any aspiring democracy.
"We have certainly come across a few hitches in the last couple of weeks with regards the campaign of the NLD [National League for Democracy]," she said. "We hope that these will be sorted out because, as the [German] minister said, free and fair elections depend on how a campaign goes, not just how people are allowed to cast their vote on the day itself."
And Niebel was keen to emphasize that any interference with the looming poll would be disastrous for Naypyidaw's aspirations of lifting the punitive economic sanctions.
"If [the sanctions] are lifted it should be step-by-step, with a process of democratization," he said. "We have a clear roadmap in the European Union. First we need fair and free democratic elections also with a campaign in front of these elections, then we need the release of the political prisoners and a clear process of reconciliation must be started.
"[Reconciliation] can't be finished in a short time but it must be started. And then in April the ministers of foreign affairs will decide about the sanctions of the European Union in the case of development cooperation."
Meanwhile, EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs also met Suu Kyi for talks on Tuesday, after already holding discussions with Burmese President Thein Sein which touched on the April 1 by-elections.
"I said to the president how much I was impressed by the pace of change in the country, undertaken under his leadership," said Piebalgs in a statement. "I took note of the significant progress in negotiating peace settlements with ethnic groups, a key ingredient for stability and prosperity.
"In this regard, the authorities confirmed their readiness to cooperate with us on remaining cases. I also encouraged them to ensure a free and fair electoral process in view of the by-elections on April 1."