WASHINGTON — The US Senate on Friday confirmed President Barack Obama's nominee to be the first US ambassador to Myanmar in more than two decades, the latest step in greater engagement with a nation undergoing dramatic reforms.

Derek Mitchell, a veteran US policymaker on Asia, was confirmed by unanimous consent in one of the final acts by the Senate before it went on a one-week recess.

In congratulating Mitchell, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the diplomat "has done an excellent job in his current role as special representative and policy coordinator for Burma," the former name for Myanmar.

"His experience will serve us well in the region as he builds on the strong foundation established by (Charge d'Affaires) Michael Thurston and our embassy team in Rangoon."

The action comes on the same day Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi departed France to return home at the end of a landmark five-nation European tour in which she was lauded as a model of peaceful resistance to dictatorship.

Myanmar was for decades ruled by an iron-fisted junta, but a reformist government under ex-general President Thein Sein has freed political prisoners and allowed Suu Kyi's party back into mainstream politics.

Photo via AFP, Soe Than Win