US to send ambassador to Myanmar, upgrading ties

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the United States will exchange ambassadors with Myanmar (mee-an-MAWR') in response to its freeing political prisoners and other reforms.

Clinton announced the move Friday after Myanmar's President Thein Sein issued a pardon and freed hundreds of detainees including some of its most famous political inmates.

In a statement, President Barack Obama described the move as "a substantial step forward for democratic reform."

It comes in the aftermath of Obama's decision to dispatch Clinton to the repressive country in December as a way of deepening engagement and encourage more openness there.

The highest level U.S. diplomat based in Myanmar, also known as Burma, is currently a charge d'affaires.