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Win Aung blasts EU over meeting Bur

Subject: Win Aung blasts EU over meeting Burma 'will attend as  sovereign country' 

February 20, 1999  

Win Aung blasts EU over meeting
Burma 'will attend as sovereign country'

Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung last night said his Asean colleagues would
find "difficulties" in attending a meeting with European Union counterparts in
Berlin if Burma were excluded.

Speaking after a half-hour discussion with Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, Mr
Aung emphasised Burma's right to attend the bloc-to-bloc meeting between Asean
and EU foreign ministers.

Burma also would attend as "a sovereign country" and on "equal terms" with
others, he added. Blasting the EU for imposing conditions on Burma's
participation, he asked if EU members would comply "if we put conditions to

The talks took place two hours after Mr Win Aung arrived from Singapore on the
last leg of a tour of four Asean member states which earlier took him to
and Indonesia. Malaysia, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam are also in the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations which admitted Burma in July 1997
despite fierce opposition from Europe and the United States.

Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan, who also took part in the talks, today takes
the Burmese minister to Ranong on a trip that will highlight the need for
Thailand and Burma to settle maritime boundary disputes and fishing
problems in
the Andaman Sea. Mr Surin hoped that neighbouring relations would improve now
that Burma is in Asean.

Mr Surin leaves tomorrow for Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany in a bid to
mend ties between Asean and the EU.

He expressed hope that the Asean-EU Joint Cooperation Committee, which has
postponed scheduled meetings in Bangkok twice, would be able to convene before
the ministers meet. "Both sides" were in favour of the more junior meeting
taking place.

Mr Surin is scheduled to meet Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen
and Deputy Foreign Minister Pierre Schori on Monday. Meetings with his Dutch
and German counterparts - Jozias van Aarsten, and Joschka Fischer - are
scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Germany is the current president of the 15-member EU while Bangkok is
coordinator for Asean.

Singapore, the current Asean chairman, yesterday emphasised that it would
support efforts to find a way out of the current impasse and get ASEAN-EU
relations back on track "without compromising ASEAN's principles".

The EU has banned travel to its member countries by Burmese government
officials and their families because of the government's repression of
political opposition.

In an interview with Reuters in Singapore, Mr Win Aung accused the EU of
reneging on a deal that would have allowed Myanmar to attend the Asean-EU

He said he had agreed to an EU proposal to talk about human rights and other
thorny issues on the sidelines of the Berlin meeting if he were allowed to

"But nearer the day we have found many, many conditions coming out of the EU.
First they said if you are willing to meet, there will not be a problem, then
they change their mind," Win Aung said.
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Last Modified: Sat, Feb 20, 1999
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