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Clinton: U.S. ready to restore diplomatic relations with Myanmar

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that the United States was ready to start the process of exchanging full ambassadors with Myanmar as it seeks to encourage further reforms by the country's new civilian government.

"This is a momentous day for the diverse people of Burma," Clinton said in announcing the decision to elevate diplomatic ties, which followed Myanmar's release of at least 200 political prisoners on Friday.

Earlier, President Obama called the repressive country's decision to release the prisoners "a substantial step forward for democratic reform."

It comes in the wake of Obama's decision to dispatch Clinton to the repressive country in December as a way of deepening engagement and seeking to encourage growing signs of openness. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is visiting there next week.

The U.S. has set release of political prisoners as an important condition for further engagement and possible lifting of economic and political sanctions.

Obama said he applauds the decision by President Thein Sein, noting that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has welcomed steps toward reforms.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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