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Anti-Terrorism Conference Ends With Pledge to Boost Cooperation - 2004-02-05

Delegates at an Asian conference on fighting terrorism have moved to strengthen regional cooperation in the effort.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Thursday that delegates had identified legal cooperation among Southeast Asian nations as a potential weakness in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Downer said the nations attending the Bali terrorism conference had agreed to work on making it easier to share evidence across borders and extradite terror suspects.

"We're extremely pleased with the progress that's been made with this meeting," he said. "I think it has been a real catalyst to getting the countries of the Asia-Pacific region to think together as a broader region on how to handle this issue of terrorism."

As part the increased cooperation, Indonesia and Australia agreed to set up the "Indonesian Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation" to train regional counter-terrorism forces and provide expertise.

The center will be run by an Indonesian police officer, but will have at least 20 Australian police officers and lawyers on its staff.

The meeting delegates also decided to set up a working group to look into coordinating policing techniques in the war on terrorism.

The two-day meeting drew officials from 25 countries, mostly in Asia and Europe. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft also attended the conference on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Mr. Downer warned Wednesday that further terrorist attacks were "inevitable" in Southeast Asia.

Militant groups across the region are in constant contact with one another to exchange sources of finance, training and military knowledge.

Delegates at the meeting in Bali hope that strengthening regional cooperation will make life that much harder for Asia's violent militant fringe.