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Asian, European Foreign Ministers Urge Burma to Release Aung San Suu Kyi

Foreign ministers from Asia and Europe have issued a joint statement calling for the immediate release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters.

This year's Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, has been dominated by the contentious topic of Burma. Europe wanted a strong condemnation of the Burmese authorities for their maltreatment of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, but most Asian nations wanted to take a less aggressive line.

The result was a compromise. The ministers called for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers, but did not stipulate any penalties if Rangoon failed to comply. The opposition leader was detained after a bloody fracas on May 30. The ministers also asked Burma to re-start reconciliation between the democratic opposition and the military government.

Thailand has proposed what it describes as a "road-map" for the release of the detained opposition leader, but has not given any details, saying it needs to discuss it with other countries and Burmese authorities.

Thailand, along with many other Asian countries, believes that isolating Burma would be counterproductive and wants the lines of communication kept open.

Burma is of particular concern to the members of ASEM because the 10 Asian members want to add three more Asian countries, including Burma, to the forum as a counterbalance to the expanding European Union, which already has 15 members.

European officials attending the meeting said Thursday that they would not accept Burma unless it made substantial democratic reforms.

The crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions was also discussed at the two day meeting, and in their final statement the ministers said any solution would have to address the country's economic and humanitarian problems as well as security concerns.