Myanmar's top junta leader has congratulated new US President Barack Obama on his inauguration, state media reported Friday in the first official reaction to him assuming office.
The official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Senior General Than Shwe "has sent a message of congratulations to the Honourable Barack Hussein Obama, on the occasion of his inauguration" as president.
The front page message comes after a senior Myanmar official told AFP that Myanmar hopes Obama will change Washington's tough policy toward its military regime and end the "misunderstandings" of the past.
Former US president George W Bush's administration strengthened decade-old sanctions against Myanmar while his wife Laura was an outspoken critic of its ruling junta.
The New Light also carried congratulations from the junta's deputy leader General Maung Aye and foreign minister Nyan Win to US Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The messages, three days after the inauguration, are a rare communication between the two countries.
Myanmar's opposition National League of Democracy party has also cautiously welcomed Obama's presidency, but said time would tell if he could help open up the military-run country.
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962, and is under economic sanctions from the United States and Europe over rights abuses and the continuing detention of pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.