U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the southeast Asian regional bloc has an important role to play in pushing Burma towards democracy.

Attending the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, in Singapore Wednesday, Rice says the group can address the repression of Burma's democracy movement, which she calls the root cause of Burma's "grave problem."

She says it is in ASEAN's interest to convince Burma's ruling military rulers to free its political prisoners and open a dialog with pro-democracy leaders.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says he shared those views during a meeting Tuesday with his Burmese counterpart, Nyan Win.  

Smith says he informed Nyan Win that Canberra will contribute an additional $29 million to fund relief efforts in Burma's Irrawaddy Delta, which was devastated by Cyclone Nargis in early May.  




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