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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 January 2007, 10:30 GMT
Asian nations pledge closer ties
Asean leaders as summit opens, with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo in centre
Asean leaders want to create a closer regional bloc
Ten Asian nations meeting at their annual summit in the Philippines have agreed on closer ties, anti-terrorism and moves towards free trade.

The leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) agreed to form a closer political unit and to bring in a free trade zone by 2015.

They agreed to consider plans which would replace Asean's consensus politics with a tougher stance.

The counter-terrorism pact they signed obliges them to share information.

The Asean leaders who came to the central Philippines island of Cebu were undeterred by a series of bombs on Wednesday in the southern island of Mindanao that killed seven people.

But some 8,000 police and soldiers are on duty for the weekend summit.

'Maturity'

In the past, Asean has been portrayed as little more than a talking shop.

ASSOCIATION OF SOUTH EAST ASIAN NATIONS
Brunei
Burma
Cambodia
Indonesia
Laos
Malaysia
Philippines
Singapore
Thailand
Vietnam

However, on Saturday its leaders signed a commitment to create Asean's first-ever charter, aimed at turning it into a European Union-style entity with binding rules and regulations.

"Asean has matured into a regional organisation and is expanding its role as an integrated regional economy and a dynamic force in maintaining regional peace and stability," the signed statement said.

The charter would, the leaders said, be the "crowning achievement of 40 years of Asean".

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that Asean was committed to "expanding its trade forum to become the largest in the world".

The counter-terrorism pact signed also allows for joint training aimed at stemming terrorism and cross-border crime.

And a statement was signed on protection for millions of migrant workers.

China, South Korea, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand will hold meetings with the Asean leaders on Cebu over the next two days.


SEE ALSO
Asean heads gather despite bombs
11 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Philippines postpones Asean talks
08 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
02 Aug 06 |  Country profiles

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