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ASEAN leaders to ink anti-terror convention

india Updated: Jan 12, 2007 18:37 IST

ASEAN leaders will sign an anti-terrorism convention and speed up plans to link their economies in a huge single market when they meet on Saturday for their annual summit, host nation the Philippines said.

Hundreds of riot police were out in force on Friday as leaders from around East Asia poured into the Philippine resort city of Cebu for the summit, which was postponed last month amid warnings of a terror attack.

Officials said there were no specific threats aimed at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathering, as well as a wider meeting with leaders from nations including India, Australia, China and Japan.

The 10-nation ASEAN bloc, which accounts for about one-sixth of the world's population, will agree to set a 2015 target date for the "free movement of goods, services, investment and capital", five years earlier than planned.

The bloc will also sign the blueprint of its first-ever charter, aimed at turning the group into a European Union-style legal entity with binding rules and regulations, and an anti-terror deal to make it easier to track and extradite suspects.

Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath held talks on signing an India-ASEAN free-trade agreement in July, while East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Luis Guterres met his counterparts as his country looks to join ASEAN in three to five years.

The venue for the separate East Asia summit -- the 10 ASEAN countries plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea -- has yet to be announced because of security reasons.

"Global terrorism has assumed new forms of virulence. We will make sure that this community is more secure and resistant to the threat of terror," said Philippine Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo.

Amid the pomp and glitz of the summit -- the Philippines built a new 11 million dollar convention centre, and is flying in chefs from abroad to cater to national leaders -- security remains a major concern.

"Generally I am satisfied but not very satisfied. We still need to make some adjustments," said retired General Leo Alvez, the security chief for summit organisers. "Nothing is perfect when it comes to security."

But he denied reports citing unnamed diplomats who said security was lax.

"I have heard quite a different story from delegates saying that we are too strict," Alvez said.

"Everyone is screened and searched -- even the ministers."

Hundreds of protestors demonstrated outside the convention centre before being dispersed by riot police, and three were arrested. They burnt an effigy of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.

"No permits for demonstrations have been issued for the duration of the summit," local police chief Alexander Abadines said.

As the regional leaders arrived, security on the streets was stepped up. Police checkpoints were set up on the two bridges linking Mactan Island to Cebu City and Mandaue, the three areas hosting the event.

Some 10,000 police and troops have been drafted to provide security amid warnings by foreign governments of terror threats.

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