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Asian leaders for a charter to combat terror

Leaders have agreed to write a regional charter to create a more closely integrated regional bloc to combat terror.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2007 15:58 IST

Southeast Asian leaders have agreed to begin writing a regional charter to create a more closely integrated regional bloc similar to the European Union and to jointly combat terrorism and cross-border crimes, according to a draft of their final statement.

The statement, to be issued after the summit concludes on Sunday, also includes an agreement on the protection of migrant workers, a major issue in the region, and a vow to create an "ASEAN Economic Community" with a free flow of goods, services, investment and capital by 2015.

Implementing the goals remains a difficulty.

The 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have long voiced support for a joint charter, but the process of writing one remains in its initial stages.

Officials here say they see the declaration as a starting point for the charter, and have refused to speculate on when it might actually be completed.

One sticking point in the charter has been the proposal of a clause to allow member states to sanction others who do not comply with its guidelines.

This is seen as a means to influence the military junta ruling Myanmar, which has long lagged behind the rest of the region in its dismal human rights record.

Before the ASEAN summit this weekend, ASEAN foreign ministers expressed serious concern over Myanmar's slow progress toward democracy and urged the junta to release all political prisoners.

The Philippines was on high alert as leaders from across Southeast Asia arrived on Friday for the summit, which was preceded by a series of deadly bombings.