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Europe, Asia Discussing Burma - 2003-07-23


European and Asian nations are trying to narrow differences over how to criticize Burma's military government for the detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Foreign ministers from the two regions began two days of talks today (Wednesday) on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Burma is not attending the meeting.

Diplomats who spoke to reporters said the Europeans want a strong condemnation of Burma, while the Asians want to tone down the criticism.

The prime ministers of Thailand and Malaysia have differed publicly over what actions to take against Burma.

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

But Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says Burma could face expulsion from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) if Aung San Suu Kyi is not released.

United Nations special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail expressed support for Mr. Mahathir's position. Mr. Razali said ASEAN has the right to demand standards of behavior from it members.

Meanwhile, Burma's military government announced Tuesday it has freed 91 political prisoners who had been in detention since the arrest of the democracy leader.

She and an unknown number of her followers were arrested May 30th following clashes between democracy supporters and demonstrators loyal to the military government.

The government says it is holding the Nobel peace laureate for her own safety. Neither her whereabouts, nor those of the other detainees, is clear.

U.N. special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail said Tuesday he is not optimistic about obtaining the prompt release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Australian radio quotes him as saying U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan may refer the issue to the Security Council.

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