Asian and European ministers agree on Burma

May 26, 2009 (AFP), Foreign ministers from Asia and Europe called for the release of Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a summit in Hanoi yesterday.

Delegates said the issue vaulted to the top of the agenda alongside discussions on North Korea's nuclear testing at wide-ranging talks by the Asia-Europe (ASEM) foreign ministers.

ASEM groups include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU), China, South Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Pakistan and India.

A draft pronouncement called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is set to testify today at her trial in Rangoon.

"In light of the concern about the recent development to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ministers… called for the early release of those under detention and the lifting of restriction placed on political parties," said the draft, seen on Monday.

She faces up to five years in jail on charges of violating her house arrest – which her lawyers said was to expire Wednesday – after an incident in which an American man swam to her house.

A top Burmese police officer said today that the junta had the right to extend her house arrest by six months.

ASEM ministers have agreed to a text that "makes specific reference to the release of political prisoners and particularly Aung San Suu Kyi," British junior foreign minister Bill Rammell said.

But Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt cautioned that "things are moving forward but nothing is ready until it’s ready."

France’s human rights minister, Rama Yade, said delegations had spoken about Aung San Suu Kyi’s plight in "sometimes not very diplomatic" tones.

She said that while ministers had agreed to the statements about North Korea and Burma, "everything could change again, but for the moment they are along that line."

During a meeting Monday with Burma Foreign Minister Nyan Win on the sidelines of the ASEM talks, the EU called for Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate release, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said.

Rammell described Nyan Win’s tone at the ASEM meeting as "very resistant" while Bildt said Burma was "defensive".

"I think the Burmese regime has miscalculated and has been somewhat taken aback by the force of international reaction," Rammell said.

China, a close ally of both North Korea and Burma, has played a "very constructive" role in the ASEM talks, said Alexander Stubb, the Finnish foreign affairs minister.

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