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Tight Security in Bali for Southeast Asian Summit - 2003-10-06


Government leaders and heads of state from across Southeast Asia are gathering on the Indonesian resort island of Bali today (Monday) for discussions on free trade and new measures to combat terrorism.

Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and four of the region's biggest neighboring state are holding their annual summit on Tuesday and Wednesday -- almost exactly one year after the devastating nightclub bombings on Bali that killed over 200 people. Extraordinary security is in effect for this week's meetings.

Talks leading up to the summit have been soured by Burma's continuing detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Sunday, ASEAN ministers drafted a 10-year plan on economic integration and security, aimed at creating a European-style trading bloc. Some members of the regional association want the document to refer to Burma's human-rights policies, but the draft does not mention the military government's detention of Aung San Suu Kyi for the past four months.

Authorities in Rangoon are under increasing international pressure to free the Nobel peace laureate, who is being held under house arrest at her home near the Burmese capital.

Burmese officials said Sunday that Aung San Suu Kyi is "not in the status of detention," however, it is not clear whether she is actually free to leave her home. She was arrested in May and detained at an undisclosed location, then was allowed to return home after undergoing major surgery last month.

ASEAN leaders will finalize the policy statement during the summit. Leaders of China, India, Japan and South Korea also are attending the summit to sign trade and security accords with the vast trading bloc of 500-million people.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Information for this report is provided by AP.

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