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Asian and African Leaders Welcome Partnership


Co-chairpersons of the Asia-Africa Summit, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, right, and South African President Thabo Mbeki attend the closing ceremony of a two-day meeting in Jakarta
Leaders from Asia and Africa meeting in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, wrapped up their first bi-continental summit in 50 years with pledges to meet regularly to improve economic and political ties.

More than 40 heads of state from Asia and Africa ended two days of meetings, vowing to meet every four years to strengthen economic and political ties between the two continents.

Among other issues, the participants from over 100 countries pledged to work on natural disaster mitigation that plagues both continents, mindful of the recent tsunami disaster that affected a dozen Indian Ocean countries and claimed over 300,000 lives.

The leaders signed a declaration called the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership that promises to create stronger bonds between the two continents economically, politically and culturally.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, whose country, along with Indonesia, co-hosted the summit, says this summit will help the peoples of both Africa and Asia, who make up over 70 percent of the world's population. "We met in Jakarta because this whole leadership that is gathered here is determined to make sure that the lives of our people change for the better," he said.

The leaders of both continents also expressed their support for a Palestinian state, and urged dialogue and tolerance among religions and cultures.

Despite the goodwill and friendships formed, the summit was in many ways overshadowed by Asian issues, including a dispute between Japan and China, North Korea's nuclear program, and criticism of Burma's human rights record.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan attended the summit, and used it as a platform to garner support for his recommended U.N. reforms. He urged leaders to attend a U.N. summit in New York in September to support those reforms.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was optimistic the strides made at the summit would be carried over to help the two continents in the coming years. "The most important legacy of this conference is the establishment of a New Asian-African Strategic Partnership. The Declaration on the New Asian African Strategic Partnership is a

milestone in the history of our movement. Through this partnership, we will create in the years ahead a legacy of socio-economic and cultural development to future generations of Asians and Africans," he said.

On Sunday, leaders are converging on the Indonesian city of Bandung, where the first Asian-African Summit was held 50-years ago.

In 1955, 29 leaders from Africa and Asia met in Bandung to throw off their colonial past and assert themselves for the first time on the world stage.