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Philippines Says Bombings No Threat to Asian Summit

Philippine officials played down three deadly bombings that came as Asian delegates gathered in the country for two regional summits. As VOA's Heda Bayron reports from Cebu, officials say the summits will go ahead despite the violence.

Philippine officials Thursday assured the safety of Asian leaders attending summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and East Asian leaders starting Sunday.

The head of the summit organizing committee, Marciano Paynor, says the bombings, which killed at least seven people and occurred hundreds of kilometers from the summit venue, were not linked to the meetings.

"We would like to dispel any notion that the recent bombings are related to our hosting of the ASEAN meetings in Cebu. Our venues are safe and secure," said Paynor. "The delegates are arriving as scheduled and our meetings are a go."

Paynor says the incidents underscore the need for greater security cooperation among Asian nations. The 10 ASEAN members are expected to sign a counter-terrorism pact during the summit.

Six ASEAN members and Australia will hold talks in Jakarta this year on how to fight terrorism in the region.

Police say the bombings Wednesday in the restive southern Philippines appear to be related to business disputes. But investigations are under way to see if they are linked to terrorist groups.

A number of Islamic militant groups operate in the southern Philippines. In addition, authorities say the Southeast Asian terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, has trained with Philippine militants.

Last week, the military said an Indonesian JI militant was killed in clashes in the south. JI has been blamed for several bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Britain, Australia and Canada have warned of possible terrorist attacks during the meetings. Philippine police and military are on high alert nationwide.