The head of the European Commssion is visiting Burma on Saturday and bringing with him an offer of around $200 million in development aid.

Jose Manuel Barroso was to meet with government officals as well as opposition leader Ang San Suu Kyi. He planned to discuss trade opportunities and political reform.

Credit Card Deal

Three private banks have signed agreements with Visa Inc. to enable international travellers to use credit cards and withdraw cash from ATM machines in Burma by January.

Until recently, foreign visitors were barred from using credit cards because of financial sanctions imposed by the US and EU to punish the former military regime. Those restrictions were lifted earlier this year after democratic reforms.

Than Lwin, deputy chairman of Kanbawza Bank, says the deal was signed between Visa and his bank as well as the Cooperative Bank and Myanmar Oriental Bank.

Over the past decade, trade and aid from the EU to Burma has been a fraction of that with other Asian countries, but that is about to change.

This aid contribution, to be distributed over the next year, amounts to nearly the same amount the EU has given Burma, also known as Myanmar, over the past 15 years.

It's also offering Burma the same trade privileges that other low-income countries get.

But the flow of praise Burmese President Thein Sein has been getting for his commitment to reform will be broken during this visit by concern over the communal clashes in western Burma that have seen more than 100,000 people driven from their homes.

Deadly confrontations between the Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities escalated with the scorching of thousands of homes from Oct. 21-30.

On Thursday, authorities ordered people in western Myanmar to surrender guns, swords and other weapons to the police within three days or face legal action.

With files from The Associated Press