Australia minister to meet Suu Kyi, Myanmar govt

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd
SYDNEY, June 24, 2011 (AFP) - - Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd will visit Myanmar next week and meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, a statement said Friday, in the first such visit in nine years to the military-dominated country. Rudd will also meet with members of the government at what he said was a "critical juncture in Burma's
history", using the country's former name. "I will use these meetings to reiterate Australia's long-standing calls for genuine progress towards national reconciliation and democratic reform," Rudd said in the statement. Rudd will be the latest high-ranking foreign diplomat to visit Nobel laureate Suu Kyi since her release from house arrest in November 2010, and elections that month which brought a nominally civilian government to power. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao met Suu Kyi in Yangon earlier this week, while Japan said Thursday it would send a senior diplomat to Myanmar next week who would also meet her. Rudd's visit aims to help support reform and economic development in Myanmar, the statement said, adding that Australia's development aid to the country has increased from AUS $29.1 million (US $30.7 million) in 2009-10 to $47.6 million in 2011-12. It is set to reach $50 million by 2012-13, it added. No Australian foreign minister has visited Myanmar since 2002, it said.

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