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World Bank earmarks $245 million for Myanmar, outlines 18-month work plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank said on Thursday it had earmarked $245 million in credit lines and grants for Myanmar under an 18-month work plan that will focus on budget, regulatory and private sector reforms.

The interim country strategy, endorsed by the board during a meeting in Washington, will guide the World Bank's assistance to the country over the next 18 months. Part of the strategy includes an $80 million grant for small rural projects.

Pamela Cox, World Bank vice president for East Asia and the Pacific, said another $165 million will be made available to Myanmar once the country has cleared its overdue debt to Bank.

"In the coming months once we've cleared arrears we will be sitting down with the government to program those funds," Cox told reporters.

A spokesperson for the International Monetary Fund said it would be sending a mission to Myanmar in early November for talks with the government on a possible staff-monitored program. The program, which would not include any financing, will help Myanmar's efforts to restructure its debt with the Paris Club of creditors.

After five decades of brutal junta rule, Myanmar has stunned the world with rapid economic and democratic reforms that has led to an easing of sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union to encourage further reforms.

It is Asia's second-poorest country, but as it opens up its economy, at stake is influence in one of Asia's last frontier markets. The country is rich in natural and other resources eyes by foreign investors.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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