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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Asean talks turn to song
Colin Powell as a member of ABBA
Some enchanted evening: Mr Powell as a pop diva
Senior diplomats have celebrated the signing of an Asian anti-terror pact by wrecking several well-known tunes.

Top of the bill was US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who launched into a self-deprecating review of his singing at last year's farewell dinner of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).

It has become traditional for the foreign ministers to parody themselves at the last night of the regional meeting though they keep the details of their performances as a national secret before the night itself.

Colin Powell as Elvis
"I was the king", Colin Powell told the dinner
The Australians kept up their reputation for cutting-edge satire with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer mocking the Burmese delegation and urging nuclear-armed India "please don't fry us".

Mr Powell immediately grabbed the nettle of his panned skit last year where he rolled around on the floor with Japan's then foreign minister while singing a country tune about a cowboy in love.

He ran a video compilation of everyone from his boss George W Bush to the Chinese National People's Congress begging him not to sing.

Mr Bush blamed Mr Powell for upsetting the delicate US-Russia balance in relations with his 2001 attempt which made President Vladimir Putin smug.

"You ended up rolling around on the floor with some foreign minister. Meanwhile the Russians were spectacular. President Putin has been gloating about it all year!" the president said.

"I want you and your staff to be better than the Russians this year - got it?"

Family feud

Even Mr Powell's normally private wife Alma joined the throng of critics, saying: "Colin, you know, after last year's Asean, the children could not go out of the house for weeks - do not embarrass the family again that way."

But Mr Powell was not to be denied his opportunity to take the stage.

He told the audience from 23 nations: "Many of you may not know it but I was one of the lead singers with the Swedish rock group ABBA, and even appeared in Las Vegas as an Elvis impersonator.

"My best performance of all was last year when I appeared at the Bolshoi with [Russian Foreign Minister] Igor Ivanov."

Colin Powell sings at the Asean dinner
Mr Powell's staff told him: "Fools keep on singing, wise men never try"
When he finally sang, Mr Powell and his staff paid homage to this year's venue, turning Some Enchanted Evening from the musical South Pacific into Some Bruneian Evening.

"Once you reach consensus, never let it go," he sang, while his staff added: "Who can explain it, who can tell you why, fools keep on singing, wise men never try."

Alexander Downer maintained the Australians' more raunchy reputation at the expense of Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha and Burma's Win Aung.

Replete in a Hawaiian-style dress, wig and sunglasses, he added new words to the tune of Spirit in the Sky to create Going to Brunei.

"When Win Aung is coming to the fest, Aung San Suu Kyi is out of her nest," Mr Downer sang in one verse, apparently referring to the Burmese Government's bid for respectability in releasing the dissident from house arrest.

In another verse he pleaded: "Yashwant, please don't fry us."

The BBC's Cait O'Riordan
"The Asean delegates were ready to let their hair down"
See also:

01 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
12 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
27 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
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