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Burma Seeks Support to Attend Regional Meeting with Europe - 2004-08-10

Burma's prime minister has held talks with his Cambodian counterpart in Phnom Penh, trying to shore up support for Burma's attendance at a regional meeting with the European Union in October.

The official word is that the Burmese prime minister, General Khin Nyunt, is visiting countries in the region to promote better relations and to strengthen ties.

He has already held talks with leaders in Laos and Vietnam and came on a brief visit to Phnom Penh Tuesday to meet with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials.

The visits are seen as an attempt by Burma's military government to shore up support among Southeast Asian nations for the upcoming Asia-Europe Meeting, scheduled to be held in Hanoi in early October.

The European Union opposes Burma's participation in the meeting, known as ASEM. The Europeans and the United States have imposed sanctions on Burma for its poor human rights record and its continued house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Many of Burma's neighbors disagree with that approach. Cambodia's Information Minister Khieu Kanharith tells VOA that despite the political problems in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, there is support for its participation in the October meeting.

"For us Asian people, we prefer a progressive approach - some kind of discreet diplomacy to make change," said Mr. Kanharith. "But, not just to make a lot of noise and bring nothing." Khieu Kanharith says Asian countries believe that contact and dialogue will be more useful to, as he puts it, "ease the political situation in Burma."

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations insists all three new ASEAN members - Burma, Laos and Cambodia - be invited to the October summit.

Asian nations are threatening to block the 10 newest EU members from the meeting unless all ASEAN states attend.

The two sides remain at odds over how to deal with the issue even though they are still trying to work out a compromise.