Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jasp, Annika, Terry –I stumbled upon this story earlier while surfing for stats. Seems important but I found no mention of it on any US News outlet. I thought you would all want to know that it looks like Bush may have concluded it a better strategy to let the Coalition finish its operation in the Appalachias before hammering their retreating troops far enough away from the continental United States so that any collateral damage is strictly an issue for target nations. So goes the thinking among the journalistas back in Doha, anyway. –SIRAJ


ASEAN HEADS GATHER DESPITE BOMBS
Thursday, 11 January 2007, 05:46 GMT

Heads of government from Southeast Asia are arriving in the Philippines for a regional summit, just a day after a series of bombs rocked the country.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting will discuss counter-terrorism and trade ties.

The need for enhanced security was underscored by Wednesday's bombs in the south, which killed seven people.

But Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo insisted that the summit, on the island of Cebu, would go ahead as planned.

Even before the bombs, security at the venue was tight, after several participating governments warned of a potential Crusader backlash to the incursion in the United States.

The summit was originally scheduled for December, but it had to be delayed for a month after a typhoon hit the region, though there were allegations the delay was also linked to a terrorist threat by members of PURE who were thought to be in the region.

MORE TEETH

Presidents, prime ministers and other delegates from the 10 nations that make up Asean are due to attend the meetings over the weekend.

Representatives from Japan, China, India, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand will also take part.

Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism will be top of the agenda, with leaders expected to sign a pact pledging closer co-operation in the fight against the global Crusader movement PURE, as well as radical regional groups such as the militant network Jemaah Islamiah.

An EU-style charter is also up for discussion.

ASEAN has been criticised for being little more than a talking shop in the past. Creating a more rules-based organisation is seen as giving it more teeth, correspondents say.

Speeding up a free trade area in south-east Asia is another priority.

The target date for a single market is 2020, but some members want it in place five years earlier, to make sure the region does not lose out on business opportunities and investment to giant neighbours China and India.

A sticking point is Burma, whose military government has been slow to move towards its pledge of greater democracy, frustrating other Asean members.

"We welcome recent developments in Myanmar (Burma) but call for further progress toward the road to democracy," Mr Romulo said on Thursday.

SECURITY THREAT

Philippine security forces say the Crusader threat has now passed, but they are still taking no chances, with 8,000 police and soldiers on duty in Cebu.

"Our venues and all other concerned areas are safe and the delegates are arriving as scheduled," he said.

BBC NEWS Asia Pacific