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Powell Satisfied with ASEAN Position on Burma, N. Korea - 2003-06-18

Secretary of State Colin Powell has expressed satisfaction with Asian support for U.S. positions on Burma and North Korea.

Secretary of State Colin Powell says members of the ASEAN Regional Forum have made a clear call for the Korean Peninsula to be free of nuclear weapons.

"There was a consistent view in the discussions today, almost every nation talked to this, that we cannot tolerate in Asia nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula," said Mr. Powell. "There was a consistent view that North Korea therefore had to find a way to abandon this program."

At the end of the forum, Mr. Powell said the Association of Southeast Asian Nation's help in pressuring North Korea is necessary to resolve the confrontation diplomatically.

He says that North Korea admits it has a nuclear bomb, so it is logical that Asian leaders want to be involved in negotiations on ending that nuclear program. The North Koreans insist on talking only with the United States.

North Korea's nuclear program violates several international accords it has signed. The North says it has a right to the weapons because it feels threatened by the United States.

The secretary of state says forum members also expressed concern over the crackdown on Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy.

"The brutal rulers of Burma need to understand that the only acceptable way forward is to release Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters and to resume dialogue with her and her party," emphasized Mr. Powell. "I was pleased that so many ASEAN and ARF members spoke out strongly on this issue."

ASEAN leaders, Tuesday, broke their traditional reluctance to comment on the internal affairs of a member. They formally called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues and a resumption of the dialogue aimed at making the transition to democracy. She was detained late last month, after violence broke out between her supporters and pro-government groups.

Mr. Powell heads to Jordan, Thursday, after a stop in Bangladesh. He hopes to restore momentum to the so-called "road map" to peace in the Middle East, an international proposal that has been weakened by a resurgence of Israeli and Palestinian violence.

He says he is concerned by the renewed violence. But Mr. Powell says he is encouraged that both Palestinian and Israeli leaders seem to realize that they cannot allow this wave of terrorism to block progress toward peace.

Mr. Powell later in the week is to meet with the leaders of the other members of the so-called peace quartet, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia, on ways to move the process forward.