A senior aide to the Burmese president has welcomed the prospect of the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy campaigner and Nobel prize winner, taking power in the country.
"They can be the ruling party one day," Nay Zin Latt, the personal political adviser of president Thein Sein, told the Guardian.
His comments constitute one of the most outspoken declarations of support for change in the secretive and repressive state so far.
William Hague, the British foreign secretary, flew into Burma on Thursday for a two-day visit aimed at "encouraging reforms".
He is the first British official of such rank to travel to the country for more than 50 years. But many observers both inside Burma and outside doubt the authorities' commitment to what Latt described as "a mission of democratisation."
Between 600 and 2,000 political prisoners remain in jail, the army continues operations against ethnic groups in the north-east of the country and censorship, though somewhat eased, remains heavy. Political life and the economy is dominated directly and indirectly by the ruling regime.
Nonetheless, it now appears likely that Aung San Suu Kyi will lead her party, the National League for Democracy, in by-elections in April. The move is controversial and some campaigners within Burma have opposed it.
The NLD boycotted elections held in November 2010 - the first for 20 years - as its leader remained under house arrest. She was released shortly after the poll.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 66, told the BBC she now believed Burma would hold democratic elections in her lifetime.