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'Neighbours exert little economic influence'

world Updated: Oct 21, 2007 10:03 IST

Countries neighbouring military-run Myanmar can exert only limited economic influence on the regime, Singapore's foreign minister has said following fresh US sanctions against companies here.

Three Singapore-linked firms are among seven blacklisted by the United States under penalties imposed on Myanmar after its deadly suppression of pro-democracy protests.

The sanctions are designed to target organisations with ties to Myanmar's ruling junta in
the hope it will pile more pressure on the regime.

But Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo told his hosts at a Myanmar Buddhist temple on Saturday evening that Asian countries could only do so much.

"While we in ASEAN have limited economic leverage, we do have a certain moral influence, because Myanmar is part of the ASEAN family," a transcript of his remarks, posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, said Sunday.

Yeo told reporters Saturday that he was "not familiar with the details" of the US sanctions that could hit companies here.

However, he added: "There could be some companies registered in Singapore and then it would be under certain restrictions from the US."

According to President George W Bush's order, the companies which are either based in or linked to Singapore are: Pavo Trading Pte Ltd, Air Bagan Holdings Pte Ltd and Htoo Wood Products Pte Ltd, which is also listed as being from Myanmar's main city, Yangon.
Singapore is the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and is to host the bloc's summit in November.

The city-state has led regional criticism of the junta's crackdown last month, which killed at least 13 people. More than 3,000 were detained.

Singapore strongly denies allegations that it allows banks based here to keep illicit funds on behalf of Myanmar's secretive generals.

Yeo said he visited the temple to express solidarity with the Myanmar people "during this very difficult period in their history."

He is expected to face numerous questions in parliament on Monday over Singapore's relations with Myanmar. One member plans to ask whether ASEAN will consider targeted sanctions against the regime.