• Kyodo

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Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura vowed Thursday to urge the European Union to keep bilateral and multilateral issues separate when deciding whether to issue visas to Myanmarese officials seeking to attend international events.

Machimura made the promise in a meeting here of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He was referring to the boycott by ASEAN economic ministers of the sixth Asia-Europe Meeting being held Friday and Saturday in Rotterdam over the Netherlands’ refusal to issue a visa to a Myanmarese minister.

Machimura vowed to raise the issue during scheduled talks with EU leaders later this week during his stay in New York, saying the European Union “is mixing up bilateral and multilateral matters,” a Japanese official said.

The EU agreed to Myanmar’s ASEM accession and thus should not deny the minister a visa, even though some European nations separately take exception to the country.

The ASEAN ministers welcomed Machimura’s initiative.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the U.N. world summit, with Myanmar’s foreign minister taking part in the talks along with counterparts from Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, and deputies or representatives from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The ASEAN countries sent only senior officials to the ASEM economic ministerial meeting after the foreign ministers agreed in informal talks earlier this week in New York to have the economic ministers boycott the talks.

Myanmar’s military junta has come under fire from Western nations for its poor record on human rights and democracy, and the issue has become a stumbling block in ASEAN-Europe relations.

$32 million for Sudan

NEW YORK (Kyodo) Japan will give about an additional $32 million to Sudan in emergency assistance for internal refugees, government sources said Thursday.

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura will announce the decision in a speech during a general debate session at the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday in New York, the sources said.

Tokyo decided immediate humanitarian aid was necessary to help Sudan get on the path to peace.

The Sudanese government and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement concluded an agreement in January in a bid to end two decades of civil war, the sources said.

The assistance will be directed at helping internally displaced people who escaped hostilities in southern Sudan and those in western Darfur, where longtime conflicts raged, they said.

An estimated 4 million people are believed to have been displaced in Sudan as a result of the civil war.

In April, Japan pledged $100 million to Sudan in April at an international donor conference for the country held in Oslo, where donors offered a combined $4.5 billion over a three-year period through 2007 to help rebuild the strife-ridden African nation.

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