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ASEAN Countries Offer to Help Burma With Humanitarian Issues


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has issued a statement at the close of its annual summit today calling on Burma to release political prisoners and hold talks with all political parties.

ASEAN officials have also offered to help Burma with humanitarian problems such as infectious diseases and refugees of rural insurgencies.

A briefing paper prepared for the summit said ASEAN has concentrated too much on political and economic engagement with Burma. It said that focusing on humanitarian issues offers the group of southeast Asian countries a new approach.

As part of its closing statement, ASEAN said it needs to take responsibility for Burma, which is facing international demands to enact democratic reforms. It encouraged the military-ruled country, which is a member of ASEAN, to preserve the group's credibility as an effective regional organization.

ASEAN's statement is the first collective call to action on Burma since the United States failed to pass a draft resolution in the United Nations calling on Burma's government to free prisoners and move toward democracy.

Information for this report is provided by AP.

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