EU urges end to Myanmar unrest, pledges aid

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has called for an end to communal killings in Myanmar following talks with President Thein Sein, while pledging aid to the former pariah state.

More than 100,000 people have been displaced since June in two major outbreaks of violence in western Rakhine state, where renewed clashes since last month between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have uprooted about 30,000.

Dozens have been killed on both sides and thousands of homes torched.

"We are deeply concerned by these events and by the consequences for the reforms and democratisation of the country. We hope that all religious leaders will call for restraint," Barroso said in a speech yesterday.

"The EU stands ready to mobilise USD 5 million for immediate humanitarian needs, provided access to the affected areas is guaranteed," he said, according to a copy of his speech released in Brussels.

Barroso, the latest in a series of Western officials to visit Myanmar after a quasi-civilian government led by Thein Sein took charge last year, was speaking at a newly established peace centre in Yangon.

The EU has contributed 700,000 euros to set up the peace centre, which is designed to facilitate "dialogue between all those concerned by Myanmar's ethnic peace processes", a separate European Commission statement said.

Barroso's comments came after he met Myanmar's president and held talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thein Sein has been widely praised for overseeing sweeping reforms in the former junta-ruled nation, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of Suu Kyi to parliament

But the Rakhine violence poses a stern challenge to the reform process, observers say.

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