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U.S. To Exchange Ambassadors With Myanmar

Zaw Thet Htway, center, a journalist who was arrested during the 2007 Saffron Revolution is welcomed by his colleagues as he arrives at Yangon airport after being released from prison on Friday in Yangon, Myanmar.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said her office will start the process of exchanging ambassadors with Myanmar. The announcement comes hours after Myanmar released 651 political prisoners.

As the AP reports, some of them were the among the country's most famous and they were received outside jailhouses with jubilation. The military junta that ruled the country since 1962 dissolved last year and has been quickly loosening its grip.

"This is a lengthy process and it will of course depend on continuing progress and reform," Clinton said. "But an American ambassador will help strengthen our efforts to support the historic and promising steps that are now unfolding."

In a statement that preceded Clinton's announcement, President Obama said the United States was encouraged by the candidacy of Aung San Suu Kyi.

"In Indonesia, I spoke about the flickers of progress that were emerging in Burma," the president said. "Today, that light burns a bit brighter, as prisoners are reunited with their families and people can see a democratic path forward."

As we reported, Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who spent 15 years under house arrest, said earlier this week that she would indeed seek a position in Parliament.

In December, Clinton visited with Suu Kyi and became the first American diplomat to visit Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, in 50 years.

There is still one big question hanging over the relationship between Myanmar and the West. Neither the president nor Secretary Clinton made any mention of whether the U.S. would lift economic sanctions.

"The United States and allies may take a wait-and-see approach, to see if government truces with various ethnic rebel groups hold, discussions with Suu Kyi move forward and scheduled April elections appear free and fair," the AP reports.

Update at 12:31 p.m. A Little More On The Reforms:

Al-Jazeera has a good report that wraps up the democratic reforms taking place in Myanmar:

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