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Alatas says US sanctions on Burma n

Subject: Alatas says US sanctions on Burma not a factor for ASEAN

ASEAN-Burma : Alatas says US sanctions on Burma not a factor for ASEAN
by Matthew Pennington

BANGKOK, April 28 (AFP) - Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas on Monday 
dismissed the impact of both US sanctions against Burma and the US call for 
ASEAN to keep Burma out of the southeast Asian grouping.

Alatas also played down concerns over political stability in Cambodia, saying 
he believed the warring partners in the fragile coalition government would be 
able to resolve differences "without resorting to force."

Burma and Cambodia, along with Laos, are expected to be admitted to the 
Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year. ASEAN groups Brunei, 
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"We in ASEAN don't believe that sanctions are relevant or workable in the case 
of Myanmar," Alatas said, referring to Burma by its official name.

Only Burma's "capacity and preparedness to accept and fulfill the economic 
obligations" of membership would determine the timing of Rangoon's admittance 
to the grouping, he added.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia 
and the Pacific (ESCAP) ministerial meeting, Alatas said the Burma was better 
prepared than the other candidates to meet the obligations of membership, 
including participation in the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA).

"The economies of Laos and Cambodia need readjustment ... but we are flexible 
on this," he said, citing the 10-year grace period they would get to reduce 
tariff barriers under AFTA.

"The Myanmar economy is in many ways more developed," he added, underscoring 
Rangoon's membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other such 
international organizations.

Commenting on recent political tensions in Cambodia, Alatas said ASEAN was 
"following closely" any developments.

"We have been reassured that things are being overcome. These things were 
bound to happen in any developing country, especially in Cambodia after a long 
period of instability, war and destruction," he said.

"I'm convinced the leadership of Cambodia will overcome the trenchant 
difficulties without resorting to force," he added.

He criticized the West's handling of Burma, saying that stepping up isolation 
and sanctions against Rangoon would only further isolate a country that for a 
long time had already isolated itself.

"Getting Myanmar into ASEAN is the better way of insuring greater peace, 
greater development and stability in our part of the world," Alatas said.

Last week, Washington announced investment sanctions against Burma and said it 
would be lobbying ASEAN states to turn down Rangoon's entry bid because of 
human rights abuses by the ruling junta.

He hoped that US-ASEAN ties would not be hurt by the sanctions and by 
differences over Burma.

"There are many common interests between ASEAN as a whole and the United 
States as well as with ASEAN (members) individually. Let's hope these common 
interests will be preserved," he said.

The European Union (EU) is to extend sanctions on Burma by six months. EU 
sanctions ban members of the ruling junta and senior members of the military 
or security forces from travelling to Europe.

Contacts at ministerial or senior official level were also frozen. Sanctions 
also include an embargo on arms sales and military cooperation as well as on 
non-humanitarian aid.

Last month, the EU agreed to exclude Burma from the Generalized System of 
Preferences (GSP) which would give Rangoon preferential access to EU markets.