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Summit of Southeast Asian Leaders Opens


Southeast Asian leaders opened their annual gathering in the Philippines as they prepare to chart a new direction for the 40-year old grouping. The leaders are expected to sign agreements on counter-terrorism, trade and a blueprint for reforms in how the organization works. VOA's Heda Bayron reports from the summit in Cebu.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo laid out the work ahead for the 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"I hope we can make progress on issues of energy independence, human rights, economic integration and social justice," she said.

During this summit, the leaders plan to move ASEAN closer toward a common market by 2015.

ASEAN wants to shed its reputation of being a "talk shop" by making its resolutions binding. The leaders will sign the blueprint for the ASEAN Charter Saturday. Experts say the charter could punish military-ruled Burma if continues to renege on its promised democratic reforms.

The leaders also will sign an agreement on counter-terrorism cooperation and they will call for the resumption of global trade talks.

Aside from the Philippines, ASEAN includes Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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