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Powell Talks Terrorism In Singapore Meeting - 2002-07-30

Secretary of State Colin Powell has met with officials in Singapore during a tour to promote Washington's war on terrorism. Mr. Powell is heading to Brunei for a two-day regional security meeting at which Southeast Asian nations are expected to pledge cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Secretary Powell was in Singapore to convey Washington's gratitude for its ongoing support in the war against terror. Last December, Singaporean authorities arrested 15 suspected terrorists who plotted to blow up the U.S. Embassy.

The secretary says he and Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong also discussed neighboring Indonesia's ability to deal with Islamic militants. They agreed that restoring Washington's military ties with Indonesia would be a big help in the fight against terrorism.

Earlier, Mr. Powell was in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to thank Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for his vigilance against terrorism.

The Malaysian prime minister has proved to be an enthusiastic partner in the war, jailing more than 60 people with alleged ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. U.S. officials say Malaysia has also provided valuable intelligence about al-Qaida activities throughout the region.

The secretary also assured Mr. Mahathir that Washington backs creation of a Palestinian state as a way to achieve peace in the Middle East. Malaysia has been critical of U-S support of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. The Muslim majority country accuses Israel of "state terrorism."

Mr. Powell next visits the oil-rich sultanate of Brunei, where he will be joined Wednesday and Thursday by nearly two dozen foreign ministers from Pacific-rim countries and the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations, known as ASEAN.

During the annual security forum, the United States and ASEAN are expected to sign an accord, agreeing to prevent, disrupt, and combat international terrorism.

The anti-terrorism pact, likely to be signed Thursday, emphasizes the need for cooperation. Analysts say it could also lead to greater U.S. logistical assistance against militant groups in the region.

The security forum in Brunei could also provide an opportunity for Mr. Powell to meet North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun. The secretary told reporters in Singapore that the communist nation has been moving positively toward renewing the stalled dialogue with the United States.

Last week, North Korea expressed regret for June's naval clash that killed five South Korean and about 13 North Korean sailors. It has also reportedly scrapped its state rationing system for a more market-based way of distributing goods. "I understand there were some statements made earlier today with respect to how North Korea may be trying to introduce market mechanisms into the economy," said Mr. Powell. "This is interesting and we will follow it closely."

Pyongyang suspended talks with the United States early last year after the Bush Administration said it was reviewing its North Korean policy. Tensions increased this year when President Bush described North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and Iraq.