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Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
Asean nations vow to fight terror
Asean ministers in Brunei
The 'global threat' of terrorism dominated the meeting
South East Asian countries have agreed to work together to combat terrorism.

Summit decisions
Pool efforts against terrorism
Work on a pact to resolve Spratlys conflict
Sign an agreement in November to create an Asean-China free trade area in 10 years
Invite East Timor as observer at future meetings

"We recognised that terrorism is a global threat," said a statement issued by ministers of the Association of South East Asian nations (Asean), meeting in Brunei.

The ministers plan to sign a joint declaration on counter-terrorism with the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who will join them on Wednesday.

China has proposed in addition that regular East Asian meetings are held to discuss counter-terrorism efforts.

Anti-terror pact

Mr Powell, on the second leg of a tour of Asia, held talks on Tuesday in Malaysia with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, whom the US regards as a key ally in its war on terrorism.

Colin Powell (right) with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
Mr Powell sees Dr Mahathir as an ally against terror

The Asean ministers condemned "the disturbing acts of terrorism and trans-national crimes which continue to threaten world peace and stability."

Observers say the ministers are keen to dispel fears that their countries are breeding grounds for terrorist networks.

Code of conduct

During his visit to Malaysia, Mr Powell is reported to have thanked Dr Mahathir for his co-operation in Washington's war on terrorism.

Asean members

Malaysian officials say they have arrested dozens of Islamic militants. They say some of them have ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

The director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, has said Malaysia has provided the United States with prime intelligence about al-Qaeda's activities throughout Asia.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said he hoped that China's separate proposal that Asean's foreign ministers and their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea meet regularly to discuss terrorism would be officially approved at a regional security meeting in November.

Mischief Reef with Chinese flag flying from it on the Spratlys
Malaysia proposed a 'code of conduct' on the Spratly islands

Besides the declaration on terrorism, Asean ministers pledged to work closely with China on a possible code of conduct to help resolve territorial disputes in the potentially oil-rich South-China sea.

But the proposed agreement does not mention by name the hotly contested Spratly islands - all or part of which are claimed by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

China has not said whether it will accept the code of conduct.

Bridging the gap

Asean also launched a plan to bridge the development gap between its richer and poorer members.

It proposes that Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand help Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam with infrastructure, information technology, human resources development and economic development.

However, there have been plenty of divisive issues for the group.

These included the proposal for a code of conduct on the Spratlys and Malaysia's proposal to set up a Kuala Lumpur-based secretariat for Asean's dialogue with its strategic partners.

An Asean diplomat told the French news agency AFP that lengthy disputes were the natural consequence of a growing organisation:

"More members means more positions. So consensus means looking for the lowest common denominator," he said.

The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Even the thorny issue of US policy in the Middle East caused few ripples"
See also:

12 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
24 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Jul 02 | Business
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