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SE Asia United in Fight Against Terror, says Powell


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, on a tour of Southeast Asia, says the region is united in its commitment to fight terrorism.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell held closed door talks with his Thai counterpart, who promised full cooperation in the counter-terror effort.

The meetings are part of an eight-nation tour through South and East Asia aimed at consolidating regional support against suspected terrorist groups.

Since the fall of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan, there are concerns that members of the al-Qaida terrorist network are relocating to this region.

Malaysia and Singapore have arrested dozens of suspects linked to al-Qaida. Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines have sizable Muslim populations where Islamic extremists are active. And U.S. troops have been in the southern Philippines since February to help Manila battle the Abu Sayyaf rebels, whom Washington says has links to al-Qaida.

In May, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines signed an agreement to share intelligence and other information to quell terrorist moves. Thailand says it will also sign on the pact.

Mr. Powell praised Thailand's cooperation in law enforcement and intelligence.

Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai says terrorism will be the focus of the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional Forum in Brunei Wednesday. The 10 member states are expected to sign a pact with the United States to increase security cooperation and to cut-off funding to terrorist groups.

Mr. Powell's Asian tour began in India and Pakistan, and he is now traveling through Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines until August 3. In Malaysia Tuesday, the next stop on his itinerary, Mr. Powell will meet with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Mr. Mahathir's tough stance on Islamic militants in Malaysia has won praise from President Bush.

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