* 'This is one of the most moving days of my life' -Suu Kyi
* Obama welcomes democratic transition in Myanmar
* U.S. removes sanctions against Myanmar president, speaker
By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON, Sept 19 Myanmar opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi met President Barack Obama at the White House
and received the highest congressional award on Wednesday.
Suu Kyi, making a coast-to-coast U.S. tour, held private
talks with Obama in the Oval Office after being feted by
lawmakers in the ornate U.S. Capitol, where she was presented
with the Congressional Gold Medal for her long fight for
democracy in a country ruled by army generals since 1962.
"This is one of the most moving days of my life, to be here
in a house undivided, a house joined together to welcome a
stranger from a distant land," she said.
"Among all these faces are some I saw while I was under
house arrest, and some I saw after I was released from house
arrest," said Suu Kyi, acknowledging strong support from U.S.
lawmakers during her 17 years of house arrest.
The Oval Office setting for the first meeting between the
two Nobel Peace laureates afforded Suu Kyi's visit some of the
trappings normally reserved for visiting foreign presidents and
But the White House, apparently treading carefully lest they
allow the Suu Kyi events upstage Myanmar's government, kept the
meeting low-key. News photographers were allowed in briefly but
not television cameras or print reporters. Obama and Suu Kyi met
for about half an hour.
Obama, seeking re-election in November, seized the chance to
meet Suu Kyi on the second day of her U.S. tour. The encounter
could help him highlight what many see as a foreign policy
accomplishment of his administration in helping to push
Myanmar's generals onto the path of democratic change.
The president expressed his admiration for Suu Kyi's courage
and personal sacrifice in championing democracy and human rights
over the years, the White House said in a statement after the
Obama welcomed the Asian nation's democratic transition and
the recent progress made by Suu Kyi's National League for
Democracy Party and President Thein Sein, the White House said.
MYANMAR PRESIDENT ACKNOWLEDGED
At her congressional medal ceremony, both Suu Kyi and
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the presence in
the audience of a minister representing Myanmar's president and
the country's new ambassador in Washington.
"This task has been made possible by the reform measures
instituted by President Thein Sein," said Suu Kyi in her
Earlier on Wednesday, the United States removed sanctions
that blocked any U.S. assets of Thein Sein and the speaker of
Myanmar's lower house of parliament and that generally barred
American companies from dealing with them.
Thein Sein and lower house speaker Shwe Mann, once members
of the former military junta who have won international praise
for driving reforms in the 18 months since the military ceded
power to a quasi-civilian government, were both removed from the
U.S. Treasury's list of "specially designated nationals."
Thein Sein will visit New York for the annual U.N. General
Assembly next week, when he is expected to meet senior U.S.
U.S. lawmakers and officials who turned out to honor Suu Kyi
expressed amazement - some tearing up - that she had made the
journey from house arrest to Washington.
"I might have hoped, but I'm not sure I expected, that one
day I would have the honor of welcoming my personal hero, Aung
San Suu Kyi, to the Congress of the United States," said
Republican Senator John McCain.
WEST WING LESSONS
Clinton said she expected change to come in the country also
known as Burma, but did not know how long it would take.
"It's almost too delicious to believe, my friend, that you
are here in the rotunda of our great capitol, the centerpiece of
our democracy as an elected member of your parliament," she
The solemn ceremony was sprinkled with lighter moments, as
Clinton related a trip to Myanmar last year, where she quoted
the speaker of the lower house of parliament as saying, "Help us
learn how to be a democratic congress, a parliament."
"He went on to tell me that they were trying to teach
themselves by watching old segments of The West Wing," Clinton
said, referring to the fictional U.S. television series about
presidential politics. "I said, 'I think we can do better than
that, Mr. Speaker.'"
Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for championing
democracy in opposition to the military junta that held her
under house arrest for years. Her last stay in the United States
was in the 1970s as a United Nations employee.
Suu Kyi's election to parliament in April helped to
transform the pariah image of Myanmar and persuade the West to
begin rolling back sanctions after a year of dramatic reforms,
including the release of about 700 political prisoners in
amnesties between May 2011 and July.
Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, early in his term
with no concrete foreign policy successes on his record, leading
critics to say he was rewarded mostly for eloquent