Asian leaders agree to draft new charter with broad powers

January 14, 2007|By New York Times News Service

CEBU, Philippines -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations made progress toward its goal of economic and political integration at a meeting here yesterday, but it was sidetracked by tensions over how to deal with Myanmar, which has come under fire for its poor human rights record.

Leaders of the 10 members of the organization, known as ASEAN, agreed to establish a free-trade zone by 2015, intensify their fight against terrorism, protect the region's migrant workers and improve their campaign against HIV/AIDS. They also agreed to draft a new charter with broad enforcement powers - a break from the 40-year-old group's tradition of consensus and noninterference.

"We want to advance the sense of community in our shared interest to look after each other in terms of justice, economic development and common security," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines said during her speech at the opening of the meeting.

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