European and Asian leaders opened summit talks in Hanoi yesterday to rekindle inter-regional ties despite divisions over how to persuade Myanmar's military dictatorship to relax its grip on power. \nThe fight against terrorism, instability in Iraq, tension on the Korean peninsula and weapons non-proliferation were among the issues to be discussed at the biennial Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). Measures to improve disease control and boost trade and investment were also on the two-day agenda in the Vietnamese capital. \nOn the summit margins, China was expected to renew its push to get the EU to lift an arms embargo imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. \nSpeaking on behalf of the EU, Luxemburg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker hinted at the discord over Myanmar's participation that almost scuppered this fifth ASEM summit. \n"Decisions on the enlargement of ASEM have shown that we don't always share the same point of view on all subjects," he said at the opening ceremony. "I hope and I am convinced that ASEM will emerge from this stronger and more mature." \nThe country formerly known as Burma was one of three members of the ASEAN that joined ASEM on Thursday, alongside Cambodia and Laos and the 10 new EU states. But its admission into the grouping was tempered by the EU's announcement that it would slap tougher sanctions on the junta for failing to meet several demands including the release of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. \nForeign ministers from the 25-member bloc are expected Monday to extend a visa blacklist of junta officials, ban EU companies from financing state-owned firms and oppose lending by international institutions such as the World Bank. \nBritain, the country's former colonial power, repeated its call for the release of Suu Kyi and other members of her National League for Democracy. \n"This would send a strong signal that Myanmar is serious about building a democratic nation," Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told a summit dinner late Thursday. \nGerman Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Myanmar now had obligations as a member of ASEM. \n"We should continue the dialogue about human rights in our countries and we should respect worldwide standards. On this issue we expect further progress from Burma as a new ASEM member," he told the meeting yesterday. \nHowever, both sides are keen not to allow Myanmar to completely overshadow ASEM, whose members collectively represent about 3 billion people and over 40 percent of world trade. French President Jacques Chirac has called in Hanoi for Asia and Europe to position themselves as an alternative pole to US domination of world affairs. \nVietnamese President Tran Duc Luong said in opening the summit that the forum must become an "important force in securing peace, security and sustainable development in the world."
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