Sat, Jul 30, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Russian Vader wows ministers at defense meet


From a galaxy far, far away, the Russian Darth Vader lands in Asia, filled with suspicion and hate. He leaves convinced that Asia's "motives are good" and that it may hold the force to reshape the world.

The skit at a gala dinner by the Russian delegation, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dressed as Star Wars villain Darth Vader, was yesterday the talk of a security conference hosted by ASEAN.

Other performances late on Thursday by foreign ministers, part of an annual ASEAN tradition, included Australia's Alexander Downer singing an Elvis Presley number.

"It's now or never," Downer crooned, "let's consummate, fulfil the promise, a summit date," he sang to whistles and laughter.

Downer this week committed Australia to ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), reversing an earlier stance and securing a place at a summit that could lead to the creation of a new East Asian community.

"Only yesterday TAC did not rate, and just in time, I've changed my mind ... it's great," he sang, his delegation twirling blue feather boas behind him.

Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew wore dark sunglasses to lead a black-suited "rat-pack" that teased the Australians.

"Australia wants in ... their way of saying they're not really Yanks," he sang. "Take down tariffs and open up trade ... in ASEAN style, it could be delayed, but so what?"

US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick was the stereotypical cowboy, singing the Wild West tune Oh My Darling, Clementine. His delegation stood stiffly by in cowboy costumes.

But all paled in comparison to the Russian skit, delegates said.

Wearing a dark brown cape and hood -- Darth Vader's heavy breathing was difficult to create in the low-budget production -- Lavrov brandished a lighted sword as he and his assistant argued about Asia to the tune of Jesus Christ Superstar.

"ASEAN, Superstar" they sang. "Do you think you're what they say you are? ASEAN, ASEAN! Why we accept whatever you have done?"

The skit was peppered with one-liners by Lavrov, who asked why Australia was present and got the reply: "Probably the kangaroos like Asian grass."

Behind him a Powerpoint display showed a world map with most countries, including the US, labeled as East Asia.

Darth Vader left singing with the crowd: "ASEAN, Superstar. You are the best friend of Russia."

The skits are a regular feature of a gala dinner for the ASEAN foreign ministers and the major powers with which they hold a dialogue.

Yesterday, the foreign ministers launched a Web site for sharing intelligence information on terrorism and were also expected to discuss the dialogue on North Korea's nuclear program, officials said.

also see story:

Asian security put at risk by Taiwan's exclusion from ASEAN forum: analysts

Six-party talks to go on as long as necessary: US

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