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EU 'to suspend Burma sanctions'

The European Union will suspend most sanctions against Burma while it assess the country's progress toward democracy, officials say.

EU foreign ministers will announce the decision on Monday, they said.

The sanctions will be suspended for a year, with the possibility of a review in six months. They target more than 800 companies and nearly 500 people.

Burma, long a dictatorship, appears to be undergoing a remarkable transition. Last year, the junta ceded power to a new government that has embarked on widely praised reforms, including opening a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and allowing her to run for - and win - a seat in parliament. An embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression will remain in place.

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Burma earlier this month, becoming the first leader of a major western country to visit the nation since the relaxation of military rule. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton plans to travel to the country at the end of the month.

Aung San Suu Kyi could follow the Queen and US President Barack Obama in addressing a historic session of both Houses of Parliament.

The idea came from Labour MP Dame Joan Ruddock after Ms Suu Kyi confirmed she would visit Britain in June.

Ms Suu Kyi has not left Burma since 1988 amid fears she would not be allowed to return, but Prime Minister David Cameron invited the Nobel Peace Prize winner to the UK when he met her last week following reforms carried out by Burma's rulers.

Speaking as MPs discussed future Commons business, Dame Joan said: "Perhaps an invitation to address both House of Parliament in Westminster Hall would be a fitting tribute to her and a very great honour to all of us."

Leader of the House Sir George Young said: "I will ensure it goes to the relevant authorities for serious consideration in light of her record on human rights."

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