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Bush security push at APEC summit bears fruit
( 2003-10-21 09:17) (Agencies)

President Bush forced the war on terror to the heart of a Pacific Rim summit Monday, despite the resentment of some Asian nations which want it to stick to freeing trade.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien told reporters the leaders did not discuss anti-terror measures at the first session of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum summit but would do so Tuesday.

"Tomorrow we will talk about terrorism because it is very important for the stability of investment that terrorism be eliminated around the world," he told reporters.

"There is nothing more nervous than a million dollars. If you don't have stability, you are in trouble. That's why we want to discuss terrorism.

Monday night, the leaders attended a lavish Thai dinner on the banks of the Chao Phraya river before watching a procession of floodlit ancient royal barges. They leave Bangkok Tuesday after issuing a joint statement.

Bush, seeking practical and diplomatic support for the war on terror, made the issue the centerpiece of the declaration.

The final draft, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, says the 21 members agree to "dismantle, fully and without delay, transnational terrorist groups that threaten APEC economies."

It also calls for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, a clear reference to the nuclear ambitions of North Korea, which were another major focus of Bush's talks in Bangkok.

Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun issued a call to resume six-party talks on halting Pyongyang's nuclear arms drive "at an early date" after the American leader shifted policy to offer some form of security guarantee to the communist state.

"We're making good progress on peacefully solving the issue with North Korea," Bush said as he sat for breakfast with Roh.

He said earlier there would be no bilateral treaty as North Korea has demanded and the guarantees would be within the context of the six-party talks, which include China, South Korea, Russia and Japan. North Korea is the only participant not at APEC.

U.S. officials said the final summit communique was likely to include a call for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. This was short of the separate statement issued at APEC last year and which Japan wanted this year.


The draft APEC declaration calls for increased security coordination, tighter controls at ports and a campaign to stop militants moving money around the world.

The leaders promise to discuss such issues at future meetings "and to take specific actions," said the draft, which could be changed before it is issued.

It reflected Bush's argument that terrorism posed "a direct and profound" challenge to freeing trade and increasing wealth.

Although it also referred strongly to promoting trade, some in Asia were unhappy at the emphasis on security. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad -- at his last major international conference before retiring later this month -- was blunt.

"APEC was formed as an economic cooperation group. But we don't agree (to) taking away economic matters into security, military or politics," he told reporters.

The irrepressible Mahathir also railed at inequities in trade, saying developing nations were "ready to be exploited, but we must be fairly exploited."

Some worried the divisions on the terrorism issue could cause serious friction.

"If the talks go beyond economic issues, we don't want to see the relationship among members in the forum deteriorate," said Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the host of the summit whose country has long been a close U.S. ally.

APEC includes several countries struggling to contain militancy within their own borders, including Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, Russia and the Philippines.


Nevertheless, economic issues were still prominent at a summit of a group spanning a wide range of countries from the United States to Papua New Guinea.

Sunday, Bush called on China to do something about its yuan currency, which Washington feels is undervalued.

Hu agreed to a joint panel to study the way to floating the yuan, but, significantly, did so after China's central bank chief issued a long defense of Beijing's policy of effectively pegging the yuan to the dollar.

The final draft declaration also agreed to push for a swift restart of global trade talks which collapsed in the Mexican resort of Cancun last month amid differences between developed and developing nations on how to pull down tariff barriers.

"We lent our strong support for continuing the valuable work done at the Cancun Ministerial Conference," said the final draft.

However, the language, agreed by foreign and trade ministers over the weekend, was seen largely as little more than rhetoric with APEC including countries which clashed bitterly in Cancun.

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