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     Decision on new Asean members by July: Alatas 

     NEW DELHI -- Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said yesterday that
     planned to decide by July whether to admit Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia
to the

     "We will have a meeting of foreign ministers of Asean some time before
July in order to
     decide what to recommend to our heads of government," he said. 

     Mr Alatas, in India for a meeting of foreign ministers of the
Non-Aligned Movement
     (NAM), told Reuters that Asean leaders agreed at an informal summit in
Jakarta last
     year that Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia would be admitted simultaneously,
but no
     date was set. 

     The Asean ministers touched on the topic in discussions on Monday but
had made no
     decision. But they agreed to hold a special meeting on May 31 in Kuala
Lumpur to
     make a final decision on the expansion of Asean's membership. 

     The timing for joining the group, especially for Myanmar, has become an
issue, with the
     United States and the European Union putting pressure on the
military-run Myanmar to
     improve its human-rights record before gaining entry into the grouping. 

     Asean has argued in the past that it makes its own decision on how and
when to admit
     new members and Western powers cannot interfere in the process. 

     Asean had never imposed any conditions for membership. However, the special
     meeting to discuss the expansion of membership indicates the existence
of certain
     thorny issues that need to be sorted out before the entry of the new
members in Asean,
     which celebrates its 30th year in August, diplomatic sources said. --
Reuter, Kyodo.