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APEC Ministers Agree to Regulate Shoulder-Held Anti-Aircraft Missiles - 2003-10-18

Foreign ministers from 21 Asian countries wrapped up two days of talks Saturday, agreeing to regulate shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles and calling for the restart of global trade negotiations.

The officials laid out the agenda for the 21 world leaders gathering Monday in Bangkok for a two-day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The APEC ministers stressed the fight against terror was at the top of their agenda, saying the well-being of their economies was threatened by extremists. Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who read the ministerial statement, said it is imperative to regulate shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles, like the one that narrowly missed an Israeli airliner taking off from Mombassa, Kenya, last year.

"To counter the emerging threat of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS, to civil aviation, ministers agreed to strengthen domestic controls on the production, stockpiles, transfer and brokering of MANPADS," he said. The APEC ministers also discussed ways to respond to health crises, such as an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the threat of bioterrorism.

"Ministers agreed that APEC must be ready to respond to other threats, such as the re-emergence of SARS. They emphasized the need for continual vigilance and to implement the APEC action plan on SARS and the APEC infectious disease strategy to protect the region from future public health threats, including HIV/AIDS and bioterrorism," he said.

The APEC ministers called on the World Trade Organization to restart global trade talks that collapsed in Cancun, Mexico, last month, after many developing countries walked out. The statement called the failed talks "a missed opportunity." Although APEC has no formal ties with the WTO, which sets global trade rules, it includes some of the biggest WTO members - the United States, China, and Japan. Security remains tight in Bangkok, as the country prepares to welcome world leaders for the economic summit, including President Bush, and the leaders of Russia, China, and Japan.