The European Union expressed serious concern Thursday at plans by Burmese military regime to build an observation tower at one of the most important heritage sites in Southeast Asia.
The EU welcomed talks between the Burmese government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to list the temple city of Pagan (Bagan) as a world heritage site.
"The EU is, however, very concerned at the decision by the Burmese (Myanmar) authorities that an observation tower is being built at Bagan and at the implications for Bagan's heritage status," the bloc said in a statement.
"In light of the potential effect of this project on Bagan, the EU calls upon the Burmese authorities to consider the consequences of the construction of this tower for the cultural heritage of Burma," it said.
UNESCO has also expressed alarm at the proposed tower, but the Burmese government says it would prevent tourists from climbing on fragile pagodas and stupas to enjoy views of the historic city in the country's remote centre.
The EU statement, issued by the grouping's Italian presidency, said however that the tower "would be contrary to accepted international standards on the preservation of sites of historical importance".
Bagan, a collection of nearly 3,000 10th-14th century Buddhist monuments covering some 80 square kilometers (31 square miles), is Burma's second-most visited tourist attraction after the Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon.
In part because of the tower plans, the talks with UNESCO have been dragging on interminably, frustrating Burma's ambitions to see Pagan listed as its first world heritage site.
The EU's relations with Burma have long been soured over the military regime's refusal to relinquish power.
Information for this report is provided by AFP