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EU hails Myanmar's 'courageous' release of dissidents

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(BRUSSELS) - European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton welcomed the release of prominent dissidents in Myanmar on Friday as a "courageous" step by the army-backed regime.

"I warmly welcome the substantial new release of political prisoners in Burma-Myanmar," Ashton said in a statement, referring to the country's old and new names.

"I am still evaluating the releases but note that some respected and well-known names are on the list," she said.

"This is a courageous step and a further confirmation that the reform course chosen by the government of Burma-Myanmar continues," Ashton said.

Coupled with a ceasefire deals with guerrillas, the release "takes us a further step towards a new relationship with Burma-Myanmar," she added.

Western powers have demanded the release of political detainees languishing in jail in the country formerly known as Burma before they will consider lifting sanctions on the regime and its cronies.

Intensifying a surprising series of reforms, the regime pardoned prominent dissidents, journalists and a former premier on Friday.

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