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Condoleezza to play piano at Asian gala

The ASEAN Regional Forum, 2006, will see the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice perform a piano recital.
None | By Agence France-Presse, Kuala Lumpur
UPDATED ON JUL 26, 2006 01:29 PM IST

The best-kept secret in global diplomacy is out -- US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will perform a piano recital at the annual gala of Asia's top security meeting, diplomats and reports said.

The ASEAN Regional Forum this year has a heavy agenda with conflict raging in the Middle East, a missile crisis on the Korean peninsula, and fury over Myanmar's refusal to embrace democratic reforms.

But foreign ministers from the 26-nation grouping will have some light relief at the traditional gala dinner during which the world's top diplomats put aside protocol and perform hilarious skits and musical routines.

US secretaries have been particularly keen to poke fun at themselves, with Colin Powell belting out "YMCA" two years ago and Madeleine Albright donning bowler hat and tuxedo in a show-biz turn that brought the house down in 2000.

Rice however -- a trained pianist with a famously serious demeanour -- is expected to perform a work from one of her favourite composers, who include Brahms and Shostakovich, the New Straits Times said.

Diplomats based in Kuala Lumpur said they were all expecting a Rice recital, but that the delegations were anxious to keep their acts under wraps after months of planning and rehearsals.

"I'm sworn to secrecy on this one," one diplomat told AFP.

"We're all keeping each other in suspense about this. It's all under wraps for everyone, people don't like to reveal their performance and it's all a sensitive issue."

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) hosting the meeting was more forthcoming, saying its 10 ministers would sing the group's theme tune chorus-style but without any elaborate preparation.

"ASEAN ministers will sing the ASEAN song composed by Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar," an official told AFP.

"Each minister has been given a CD of the song so that they will know the tune. They are not practising together before the dinner," he said.

As well as the renowned US performances, Australia and Canada also specialise in performing popular tunes reworked to make light of regional tensions.

"When you're not so sweet, I call the Seventh Fleet. That's the American way!" Albright crooned at her Chinese counterpart one year, to the tune of Bob Hope's "Thanks for the Memories".

The ARF groups Australia, Canada, China, East Timor, the European Union, India, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

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