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Obama To Host Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi At The White House


The White House is considering ways to pull back sanctions on Myanmar, also known as Burma. The administration wants to do this in a way that would further promote the development of democracy in that country. President Obama will be talking about that tomorrow with Aung San Suu Kyi. She is the - now the de facto leader of a country that once held her under house arrest. NPR's Michele Kelemen has the story.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: A top adviser to President Obama describes the opening to Myanmar as a bright spot on the foreign policy agenda. And Ben Rhodes says the White House wants to help Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi keep that country on the right path.

BEN RHODES: We want to get her thinking on what we can do that is most effective in promoting the democratic transition and promoting greater economic growth.

KELEMEN: One way to do that is to ease sanctions and promote investment. Those sanctions were originally put in place to isolate Myanmar's former military junta. The military still controls much of the economy and retains great political power, so Rhodes says the U.S. has to strike a balance.

RHODES: The question is, how do we balance the need to continue to demonstrate that this transition is not complete with the fact that we don't want to shut ourselves and responsible investment out of the country?

KELEMEN: That's not all on the agenda for the White House talks. The State Department's point person on religious freedoms, David Saperstein, says, the U.S. also wants to help Myanmar protect ethnic minorities, including the tens of thousands of stateless Rohingya Muslims.

DAVID SAPERSTEIN: We're going to do everything possible to help support Burma's efforts to address these problems of religious intolerance in the country that come from extremists in the Buddhist community and tensions between different segments of the community. For Burma to make it, they have to address these problems, and we are deeply committed to supporting them.

KELEMEN: While some observers have criticized Aung San Suu Kyi for staying silent on this problem, Saperstein says she is beginning to speak out now, and he says he's confident President Obama will be raising this clearly in their meeting at the White House on Wednesday. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, The State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.