Barack Obama has met Burma's pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi during his landmark visit to the former pariah state, a first by any serving US president.

Following an informal meeting with Suu Kyi at her residence, Obama said he has seen heartening signs of progress in the country for the past one year that include the release of her from house arrest and her election to the parliament.

He also praised the reforms in the country during a meeting with the President Thein Sein and urged the nation to move ahead in the process.

"I've shared with him the fact that I recognise this is just the first steps on what will be a long journey," said Obama after a meeting with Sein at Yangon's regional parliament building.

"But we think a process of democratic and economic reform here in Myanmar that has been begun by the president is one that can lead to incredible development opportunities," Obama continued, with Sein at his side.

Obama used the country's name as Myanmar, deviating from the normal practice in US of calling it Burma. Myanmar is the name preferred by the former junta and the government.

"During our discussions, we also reached agreement for the development of democracy in Myanmar and for promotion of human rights to be aligned with international standards," said President Sein.

The US president's visit is intended to encourage the political reforms put in place by the country's reformist president following the end of military rule in 2010. He is expected to announce an aid pledge worth $170m (£107m).

Earlier, Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were greeted by Myanmar's officials at the Yangon International Airport as hundreds of people lined up the streets to greet the president.

Though Obama urged the leaders to continue the reforms, critics are of the opinion that the visit was too early as they point out to a nation struggling with ethnic conflicts and a number of political prisoners still behind bars.

Sectarian clashes involving the Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists have killed over 180 people and have destroyed the homes of more than 100,000.

Obama will be spending his six-hour stay in the commercial capital of the country, meeting the country's top leaders. Later, Obama will be delivering a speech at Rangoon University. He will not be visiting the country's new capital, Nay Pyi Taw.