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EU's foreign aid chief visits Myanmar

(Xinhua)

10:01, February 13, 2012

YANGON, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- European Union Development Commissioner Andris Piedalgs arrived Yangon Sunday on a three-day visit to Myanmar to monitor the country's latest development.

It is the first trip to the Southeast Asian nation by a top EU official after the new Myanmar government took office in March 2011 and started reform.

EU is expected to provide 150 million euros (about 200 million U.S. dollars) as an extra aid to Myanmar over the next two years and the aid is to be channeled through the United Nations and non- governmental organizations.

Piedalgs will discuss with the government in Nay Pyi Taw on running social service with the aid, expectedly on micro credit, health and education.

According to local sources, Piedalgs will also meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon and visit a clinic opened with EU aid.

The EU has provided 174 millions euros to Myanmar since 1996 to help fight malaria and tuberculosis, improve infrastructures in rural areas and bring more than six million children to school, according to diplomatic sources.

In January, European Union foreign ministers, recognizing Myanmar's political reforms, agreed to ease travel restrictions on Myanmar senior government officials as reported.

The EU action would suspend the visa ban on Myanmar's president, vice presidents, cabinet members and the parliamentary speaker.

The EU foreign ministers, who met in Brussels, recognized the " remarkable program of political reform" by Myanmar's new civilian government.

The reforms included the release of hundreds of prisoners of conscience, the freeing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from years of house arrest and allowing her and her party to take part in the April parliamentary by-elections and the peace efforts the government pursued with ethnic armed groups.

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