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Reuters-EU-ASEAN meeting approves c (r)

Subject: Reuters-EU-ASEAN meeting approves cooperation programme

Wednesday May 26, 6:47 am Eastern Time
EU-ASEAN meeting approves cooperation programme
(Adds approval of cooperation programme by conference)

BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - The European Union and Association of South East
Asian Nations approved a broad programme for future cooperation delayed two
years by a dispute over Myanmar's human rights record, officials said on

The ``New Dynamic in EU-ASEAN Relations'' was formally approved by the
blocs' Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), EU ambassador to Thailand, Michel
Caillouet, told reporters.

The wide-ranging programme covers trade, economic and industrial cooperation
as well as initiatives on drugs and the environment. Trade clauses include
cooperation over intellectual property rights and bloc-to-bloc tariffs.

The plan should have been adopted two years ago, but this week's JCC meeting
in Bangkok was twice postponed because of military-ruled Myanmar's entry
into ASEAN in 1997 and the grouping's requirement that all its members

The EU has imposed sanctions on Myanmar because of its poor human rights
record and this week's meeting only came about after a compromise was
reached allowing Yangon to attend but not speak.

EU sanctions, which bar senior Myanmar officials from entering Europe,
forced the cancellation of a meeting of foreign ministers of the two blocs
earlier this year.

The lack of contact between the two trading blocs has led to many
cooperation and aid projects being put on hold.

The sanctions were imposed because of Myanmar's human rights record,
including its treatment of its pro-democracy opposition led by Nobel
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Her party won a 1990 election by a landslide, but
the military ignored the result and detained many of its members.

On Tuesday, the U.N.'s International Labour Organisation said forced labour
in Myanmar remained widespread despite the Yangon government's vehement

The Geneva-based agency said thousands of villagers continued to perform
forced labour as porters, messengers or as workers on roads, railways,
bridges and farms.

It said recommendations made in August 1998 by an ILO commission of inquiry
had not been followed.