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Asia Pushes for Burma's Inclusion in Asia-Europe Forum - 2003-07-22


Several Asian nations are pushing for the inclusion of Burma in a key Asia-Europe forum even though most of them have criticized the detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Associated Press quotes the Thai foreign minister (Surakiarta Sathirathai) as saying Burma, along with Laos and Cambodia, should be allowed to join the forum.

However, European Union nations, which comprise the Western members of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) forum, are objecting to Burma's inclusion because of the junta's dismal human rights record.

Delegates from 10 Asian countries and the 15 European Union members that make up ASEM begin two days of talks on the resort island of Bali Wednesday to discuss the political situation in Burma and other regional issues.

Days before the talks, the prime ministers of Thailand and Malaysia differed publicly over what actions to take against Burma's ruling military over its crackdown on the country's democratic opposition.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Monday that Burma's ruling military should be given more time to seek reconciliation.

Earlier, Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Burma could face expulsion from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, if democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is not released.

The leader of the National League for Democracy has not been seen in public since she was detained by Burma's military authorities at the end of May.

The ruling generals have rejected repeated calls and mounting international pressure for her release.

Other topics on the agenda in Bali include reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the North Korean nuclear standoff, the Middle East peace process, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and international terrorism.

Bali was the site of last October's deadly terrorist attack that claimed more than 200 lives.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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