Webb Visits Burma, Will Meet With Junta Chief

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2009 9:21 AM CDT
Gen. Than Shwe met with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon earlier this year. Jim Webb will become the most senior American official to meet the leader of the Burmese junta this weekend.   (AP Photo/Pool via APTN)
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(Newser) – Sen. Jim Webb arrived in Burma today and will meet with the leader of the country's junta this weekend, reports the New York Times. The Virginia Democrat will be the highest-ranking American official ever to meet Gen. Than Shwe; the White House said the senator was "not carrying a message from the administration." His visit comes just 3 days after Aung San Suu Kyi returned to house arrest following a widely condemned trial.

Webb, a Vietnam vet, has substantial professional experience in the region. He is unlikely to meet with Suu Kyi, nor is he expected to return with the American eccentric who swam to Suu Kyi's house and was also convicted this week. The EU is preparing to ramp up sanctions against Burma, but Webb recently said he wants to "open up diplomatic avenues" and "work toward some way where you can remove sanctions."