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ASEAN Divided Over Burma Leadership Role


Southeast Asian foreign ministers meeting in the Philippines are still divided over whether Burma's military junta should head ASEAN next year, but they expect to reach a decision later Monday.

The Burma question has been at the forefront of the ministers' informal meeting on Cebu island. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations takes up a new chairman every two years, and Burma's turn is due in 2006.

A senior Philippine diplomat says two main possibilities are being discussed: that the military junta in Rangoon could enact long-delayed democratic reforms -- thus gaining broad support from other ASEAN members for its chairmanship -- or that Burma could withdraw from the selection process voluntarily.

The Philippine official, who asked reporters not to name him, says there also is a third option: that ASEAN members could simply drop their demands for reforms and allow Burma to take up the chairmanship without obstacles.

Washington and the European Union have threatened to boycott any ASEAN meetings chaired by Burma.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuter.

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