By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
RANGOON — Burma's opposition party urged the US to open talks with the country's junta, a spokesman said Wednesday, the last day of an American diplomat's visit amid signs of a shifting US approach to the military rulers.
The US is Burma's strongest critic and applies political and economic sanctions against the junta for its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.
But President Barack Obama's administration has said it is reviewing its Burma policy, which thus far has done little to nudge the junta toward reforms.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said Washington is "looking at what steps we might take that might influence the current Burmese government and we're also looking for ways that we could more effectively help the Burmese people."
During a four-day visit, Stephen Blake, director of the State Department's Mainland Southeast Asia office, held talks with senior members of the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
He told the party that "no decision has been made" about future US policy toward Burma, party spokesman Nyan Win said, adding that the party urged the US to initiate talks with the junta.
Blake also met with Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win at the administrative capital of Naypyitaw during the trip, US Embassy spokesman Richard Mei said.
The state-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Wednesday that Blake and the foreign minister, who is not related to the opposition party spokesman, "discussed issues of mutual interest and promotion of bilateral relations."
Burma was Blake's last stop on a tour of Southeast Asia that also took him to Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, Mei said. He called Blake's Burma trip "a fairly routine visit by the person in charge of these countries."
Blake also met other government officials, representatives of the United Nations and private groups, Mei said.
Burma has been under military rule since 1962. The current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing pro-democracy demonstrations and killing as many as 3,000 people. It called elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results when Suu Kyi's party won overwhelmingly. Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest.