Washington: Myanmar's iconic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday she hoped US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to her country will spur further reform by the military-backed government.
   
"I hope Secretary Clinton's visit will open the way toward a better relationship" with Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, Suu Kyi told foreign policy experts in Washington via video conference from Myanmar.
   
She voiced hope that Clinton will be able to discuss key issues with the government "and that they will be able to come to some kind of understanding that will encourage the reforms to go further."
   
On Friday, Clinton meets President Thein Sein, a former general now at the vanguard of reforms, before travelling to the main city Yangon for talks with Suu Kyi, whose views hold great sway in Washington.
   
Clinton is expected to urge Myanmar to free all political prisoners, estimated by activists to number between 500 and more than 1,600.
   
She is also likely to press the so-called civilian government to end long-running ethnic conflicts that have displaced thousands of people.
   
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has surprised observers with a series of reformist moves in the past year including releasing Suu Kyi from house arrest and nominally ending decades of military rule.
   
Suu Kyi saw a genuine desire among Myanmar's leadership to improve ties with the United States even if she believed that there are disagreements within the government over the desirability of reform.
   
"I think that both countries want to improve relations and I'm very much in favour of that. I've always been in favour of engagement. I would certainly be very happy to see the United States engaging more with Burma," she said.
   
Months after entering office, US President Barack Obama's administration launched a policy of engaging diplomatically with Myanmar after determining that the old policy of sanctions was ineffective in pressing the regime to change.
   
The Obama administration has held out the promise of lifting sanctions if Myanmar undertakes further political and economic reforms.
   
During a visit to Asia earlier this month, Obama agreed to send Clinton on the groundbreaking trip to Myanmar following a phone call to Suu Kyi.
   
Suu Kyi said the Myanmar "government is quite comfortable with the close links" she has with the United States because she said it understands she does not intend to the use the relations with Washington to harm the government.

Agencies