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Obama calls release of political prisoners in Myanmar 'substantial step forward' for reform
WASHINGTON (AP) ' President Barack Obama is calling the Myanmar government's decision to release hundreds of political prisoners "a substantial step forward for democratic reform."
It comes in the aftermath of Obama's decision to dispatch Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the repressive country in December as a way of deepening engagement and seeking to encourage growing signs of openness.
The U.S. has set release of political prisoners as an important condition for further engagement and possible lifting of economic and political sanctions.
Obama says he applauds the decision by President Thein Sein, noting that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has welcomed steps toward reforms.
Obama says prisoner releases, which sparked jubilation in Myanmar, is "a crucial step in Burma's democratic transformation and national reconciliation process."