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AsiaEurope Confer. Reuters

Strider, please post on BNN, 
c/o Dawn Star, UVI. Paris
Rights Activists Seek Strong Summit Stand
Reuters New Media
February 28 

BANGKOK (Reuter) - Human rights activists called on Asian
and European leaders Wednesday to take a strong stand against
human rights abuses but said they expected their pleas to fall
on deaf ears.
Carmel Budiardjo, director of TAPOL, an organization
campaigning against human rights violations in East Timor, said
a firm stand could be a landmark in setting the tone for future
work in southeast Asia.
She referred in particular to ``bullying tactics'' by
Indonesia, whose rule of the former Portuguese colony of East
Timor is not recognized by the United Nations.
She was one of several speakers in a panel discussing Burma,
East Timor and Northern Ireland as ``urgent issues for Europe
and Asia'' at an Asia-Europe forum of non-governmental
organizations (NGOs).
The meeting of more than 350 representatives from 100
organizations has been billed as an alternative to a conference
of leaders from 25 Asian and European nations on March 1-2.
After the NGO conference ends Thursday, organizers plan to
present a summary of their discussions to Asian and European
representatives before the Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) begins.
At ASEM, leaders from the seven-member Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus Japan, South Korea and
China will meet with counterparts from the 15-member European
Union to discuss ways to strengthen economic and political ties.
But although Budiardjo and speakers from Northern Ireland
and Burma all made pleas for governments to take note of the
human rights problems in the different countries, they said they
did not expect much in concrete terms.
``I don't think they will raise the the issues at the
summit,'' Burmese dissident leader Maung Maung told a news
conference. ``But what people like us can do is try and use ASEM
as a lobbying article against governments that are supporting
the (Burmese) military regime.''
Many Asian nations have pressured European countries
attending the ASEM meeting not to bring up sensitive human
rights or labor issues, but Budiardjo urged European nations to
make their views heard.
``We should have no illusions about the European Union. Its
several institutions go their different ways, particularly on
human rights issues,'' she said.
``With Indonesia and its partners in ASEAN aided and abetted
by its allies in the EU, the people of East Timor will have to
rely on the deeply held moral and political commitment of
Indonesia has said the East Timor issue was irrelevant to
the leaders' summit, and it should not be raised. But Portugal
has said it will not let the meeting ignore East Timor.