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Burma clouds Asia-Europe talks

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Burma clouds Asia-Europe talks

By William Horsley

BBC, Hanoi

Leaders from 38 Asian and European countries are in Vietnam's capital Hanoi for the fifth Asia-Europe summit.

The European delegations say they will use the meeting to protest against the lack of democratic reforms by the military government in Burma.

The Asem meeting is designed to ease tensions and build bridges.

China, Japan and South Korea, and the member-states of both the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the European Union are taking part.

But the political dialogue in Asem is now stalled over the issue of Burma, and EU foreign ministers have said their countries will use this event to confront Burma again.

The Europeans insist that Burma's military government must release the democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and accept other democratic reforms, or face stricter European sanctions aimed at punishing the regime.

Some EU states wanted to exclude Burma completely from this meeting, the first since the enlargement of both Asean and the EU.

But the Asean countries countered by saying that all three of their new members, Burma, Laos and Cambodia, must be included, or the EU's 10 new members must be excluded as well.

The result was an uneasy deal, whereby Burma would attend but only with a lower-level delegation, led by the newly-appointed foreign minister, Nyan Win.

There will be other talking-points. For one, the Chinese government will again be pressing its demands for the lifting of the EU's embargo on arms exports to China, in place since the army's suppession of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protest 15 years ago.

The agenda covers a range of topics from free trade to co-operation against terrorism.

But the summit now risks developing into a clash of political values between Asia and Europe over Burma, where harsh sentences for peaceful protests and other human rights abuses were recently condemned in a report by experts of the United Nations.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...fic/3722512.stm

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EU threatens new Burma sanctions

The European Union is set to impose new sanctions against Burma, according to the EU's Dutch presidency.

The EU warned last month that it would take action against Burma unless human rights improved before the Asia-Europe summit (Asem), which opens on Friday.

The Dutch foreign minister said the decision was set to be ratified at an EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday.

Leaders from 38 Asian and European nations are in Vietnam for the Asem summit, designed to strengthen ties.

China, Japan and South Korea, and the member-states of both the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the European Union are taking part.

Announcing the sanctions on Thursday, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said: "I think it is... very important not only to give a political signal to Myanmar [burma] itself, but also to other countries participating in this Asem meeting that the European Union does not condone this behaviour."

The new sanctions will extend the list of senior Burmese officials who are currently banned from gaining visas to visit Europe, as well as prohibiting European companies from providing finance to state-owned interests inside Burma.

Some EU states wanted to exclude Burma completely from this meeting, the first since the enlargement of both Asean and the EU.

They wanted the country's military rulers to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, and agree to several other reforms before it was allowed to attend.

But the Asean countries countered by saying that all three of their new members, Burma, Laos and Cambodia, must be included, or the EU's 10 new members must be excluded as well.

The result was an uneasy deal, whereby Burma would attend but only with a lower-level delegation, led by the newly-appointed foreign minister, Nyan Win.

Burma will not be the sole topic of conversation at the Asem meeting.

The Chinese government will again be pressing its demands for the lifting of the EU's embargo on arms exports to China, in place since the army's suppression of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protest 15 years ago.

The meeting's agenda covers a range of topics from free trade to co-operation against terrorism.

But the summit now risks developing into a clash of political values between Asia and Europe over Burma, where harsh sentences for peaceful protests and other human rights abuses were recently condemned in a report by experts of the United Nations.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...fic/3723430.stm

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Burma overshadows Asem

By Kylie Morris

BBC South-East Asia correspondent

European and Asian leaders are talking business, trade and politics at their summit in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi.

The Asia-Europe meeting, which convenes every two years, has been enlarged to include 39 countries including, most controversially, Burma.

On the eve of the meeting, the EU promised stronger sanctions against the military government in Rangoon.

Europe was keen to show it had not brought Burma in from the cold, despite agreeing to its presence at the summit.

At the EU foreign ministers' meeting on Monday, they are likely to approve new sanctions which will prohibit European companies investing in Burmese state-owned enterprises and prevent senior military figures from travelling to Europe.

Terrorism and climate change

At a showy opening ceremony, the delegates of the 39 countries filed into a lavishly furnished hall to an orchestral accompaniment.

Among the highest profile figures at the summit are the leaders of France, Germany, China and South Korea.

Speaking on behalf of the EU, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker told delegates they need one another, even if they do not always share the same point of view.

Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said that stability and prosperity depend upon the rule of law and human rights.

The threat of terrorism was a recurring theme among other speakers, as were the risks posed by climate change and the need to strengthen the United Nations.

Sole forum

Some issues will be discussed in sharper focus.

China wants the European Union to lift its 15-year arms embargo on Beijing and for hosts Vietnam, it is a chance to strike deals to consolidate its fast-improving economy and position as a gateway to the Chinese market.

Asem presents the only forum for the regions of Europe and Asia to speak directly with one another.

The greatest danger is that there is so much to discuss, nothing is decided.

But many of the European delegates are counting on strengthening relationships here in a region where the United States is so powerful.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...fic/3725580.stm

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Asia, Europe sidestep Burma

Asian and European leaders have ended their biennial Asem summit in Vietnam by calling on Burma to pursue democratic reforms.

They did not ask for the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but urged Burma to lift restrictions on political parties.

European countries had threatened to boycott the talks in protest at the decision to invite Burma into Asem.

Asem leaders also called for the UN to lead the fight against terrorism.

The leaders of the EU members of Asem only agreed to Burma's admission into Asem - along with 12 new other members - if the country's top generals stayed away from the Hanoi summit.

The EU has threatened to impose tougher sanctions on the junta next week for failing to meet several demands, including Aung San Suu Kyi's release.

Outgoing EU Commission President Romano Prodi denied the summit had failed to tackle the issue.

"No, because the Burmese were present at the discussion and they understood how important the international pressure on them is," he told reporters.

"I think this type of collective pressure will be very important to find a solution," he said.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for more than a year in the Burmese capital, Rangoon.

Global issues

Asem leaders also discussed the fight against terror, saying it should be conducted with respect for human rights and the rule of law.

This, they said, "requires a comprehensive approach, collective efforts and international co-operation where the United Nations plays the leading role".

Leaders also discussed climate change and expressed strong support for the earlier accession of Laos and Vietnam to the World Trade Organization.

The next Asem summit will be held in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, in two years' time.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...fic/3729400.stm

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