Burmese officials have threatened to take action against Buddhist monks leading the country's largest anti-government protests in nearly 20 years.

The religious affairs minister, Brigadier General Thura Myint Maung, broadcast the warning on state television Monday after monks led some 100,000 people on a peaceful pro-democracy march through the streets of Rangoon.

The general's statement is the first official reaction to the escalating protests against the country's military rulers.

The United Nations, the European Union and the United States each issued statements Monday calling for restraint by Burma's government and urging reform through peaceful national dialogue between the country's leaders and pro-democracy activists.

They also praised the peaceful nature of the demonstrations, which began last month over fuel prices, but have become a general protest against Burma's repressive military leadership.

Burma has been ruled by a military government since 1962.

Burma's current leaders have been widely criticized for human rights violations and the detention of political activists, including pro-democracy opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her National League for Democracy won elections in 1990, but Burma's military rulers refused to relinquish power. Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for most of the past two decades.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.