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Powell Pleased with Southeast Asian Support for Anti-Terror War - 2002-08-03

US Secretary of State Colin Powell says he is pleased with the support from Southeast Asia in the war on terror. His comments come at the end of his tour of Southeast Asia Saturday.

During his stop in Manila, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell praised the region's commitment to fighting terrorism. He was wrapping up his eight-nation tour of Asia in the Philippines, Washington's strongest ally in the region.

"I have found support throughout Southeast Asia for this campaign because there is not a nation in Southeast Asia which has not at one time or another, or today, been under the threat of terrorism," Mr. Powell said.

After meeting with Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Mr. Powell commended the country's "positive contribution" in the anti-terror campaign.

"The Philippines has been in the forefront of leadership in Southeast Asia with respect to the global war against terrorism," he said.

Mr. Powell's visit came just days after a six-month counter-terrorism training exercise between U.S. and Philippine soldiers ended in the southern Philippines. That mission was aimed at eliminating the Muslim guerilla group, Abu Sayyaf which Washington links to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Mr. Powell stressed that U.S. support in the region will not be limited to military cooperation, but will expand to areas such as economic development, education and trade.

About 100 protesters clashed with riot police outside the presidential palace where Mr. Powell met with Philippine leaders. Nationalists groups have been against U.S. troop presence, saying it violates the country's sovereignty. They also opposed Mr. Powell's visit.

The Philippines was a colony of the United States for more than 40 years until 1946, and Washington maintained large military bases there until the early 1990's. Some groups in the Philippines say they fear the recent military exercises are a sign the United States is trying to again permanently base troops in the country.