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Asia, Europe Vow to Strengthen Ties on Terrorism, Trade, Energy Issues - 2004-10-09

Leaders from 38 nations in Asia and Europe say they will strengthen ties to address international issues such as terrorism and energy shortages, as well as to promote trade and reduce the gap between rich and poor. The leaders made the pledge at the end of a summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Vietnam.

Vietnam's prime minister, Phan Van Khai, Saturday closed the two-day Asia Europe summit, saying it demonstrated a bold resolve to elevate the partnership to a new stage.

He said the leaders agreed to enhance political dialogue to secure stability and development.

Mr. Phan says the leaders also called for accelerated reform of the United Nations to make it and the U.N. Security Council more representative. And he underscores a commitment to fighting terrorism, transnational crime, nuclear proliferation and weapons of mass destruction.

The Asian and European leaders issued a declaration that they would strengthen trade and economic cooperation between the two regions. It also expressed concern over rising religious and racial intolerance, and called for greater dialogue among civilizations through educational and cultural exchanges.

On the eve of the summit, ASEM leaders expanded the forum to include the 10 new members of the European Union and the three newest members of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

However, an objection by European governments to participation by the repressive government of Burma threatened to disrupt the summit. A compromise allowed Burma to send its foreign minister rather than prime minister.

EC President Romano Prodi told reporters that the European Union follows a two-track policy, pressing for political reform in countries such as Burma, but continuing to cooperate in economic and social areas.

"There is no contradiction at all on these two different tracks," said Romano Prodi.

As if to demonstrate this, EU officials Thursday announced they would tighten sanctions against Burma because it had not eased restrictions on pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy. The sanctions, including an expanded ban on travel by senior Burmese leaders and restrictions on loans to Burmese institutions, are expected to be implemented Monday.

Also on Saturday, the European Union and Vietnam agreed on measures to allow Vietnam to join the World Trade Organization. Although negotiations with other governments, in particular the United States, continue, EU approval removes a major obstacle to Vietnam's goal of joining the organization by next year.