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Last Updated: Friday, 8 October, 2004, 06:06 GMT 07:06 UK
Burma overshadows Asem
By Kylie Morris
BBC South-East Asia correspondent

Opening ceremony of Asem summit
Member states have been divided over whether to invite Burma
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.




SEE ALSO:
Burma clouds Asia-Europe talks
07 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
EU threatens new Burma sanctions
07 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Burma warns UK not to interfere
03 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Thailand seeks Burma 'road map'
24 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
EU allows Asia summit to go ahead
03 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Burma told to release Suu Kyi
24 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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