Foreign ministers from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations begin a series of meetings Sunday in Singapore to discuss far-ranging issues involving security in the region.

High on the agenda will be relief efforts in the military-ruled nation of Burma, which was devastated by cyclone Nargis in May  The storm killed 78,000 people and left 56,000 others missing.

ASEAN has been condemned by Western countries and human rights groups for failing to exert greater pressure on Burma to implement democratic reforms.

But the organization was hailed for persuading the ruling generals to accept international aid and relief workers after the storm.

On Thursday, ASEAN will hold its annual security dialogue, which will include the United States, represented by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the European Union.

Rice and foreign ministers from five other countries involved in negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program (the United States, China, Japan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea) will talk on the sidelines of the security meeting.  

That meeting will be the highest-level gathering of the six parties since denuclearization talks began in 2003.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.