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Daily Archives: October 25, 2008

Europe, Asia summit opens with calls to unite

European and Asian leaders pledged united and bold action in combating the unprecedented challenges posed by the global economic crisis, as a major regional summit got under way in Beijing yesteraday.


At the opening of the two-day gathering, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made it clear Asia had heard the calls from Europe to work together in tackling the worst financial turmoil since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
"Asia and Europe should intensify coordination and cooperation to jointly meet global challenges," Wen said in front of leaders from more than 40 nations attending the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM).
Wen recalled the great benefits to the world economy and trade created by the ancient Silk Road that connected Asia and Europe hundreds of years ago.
"Today we must show even greater vision and foresight to bring about new achievements in Asia-Europe cooperation for the benefit of our peoples," he said.
In the first major coordinated Asian response to the turmoil, China, South Korea and 10 Southeast Asian Nations pledged to create an 80-billion-dollar fund that those countries could draw upon to fight off currency speculators.
But amid a seemingly never-ending stream of bad news about economies around the world punctuated by another horror day on global stock markets, Wen and other leaders spoke ominously about the turmoil.
"The spread of the worsening international financial crisis has seriously affected international financial stability and world economic growth," Wen said.
In his opening remarks to the ASEM summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Asia to support Europe at a crucial economic meeting next month in the United States where leaders will discuss ways to end the turmoil.
"When it comes to the Washington summit on November 15, Europe is going to present a united front and we will submit well-considered proposals developed together," Sarkozy said.
"Europe would like Asia to support that effort, so that together on November 15 we can tell the whole world that the causes of this unprecedented crisis will never happen again."
Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, is seeking to overhaul the Bretton Woods system that has governed international finance since the end of World War II.
But the United States has been more cautious in its approach, stressing the importance of preserving the commitment to free markets, free enterprise and free trade.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the ASEM opening that the world had no choice but to unite.
"In the globalised financial market of today, we all need to be involved. Europe, Asia and the US and other financial partners need to work together to define and agree responses to the regulatory changes," he said.
He also warned against protectionism.
"We cannot meet these challenges by closing the door and simply looking after our own house. We have all benefited from trade and an open business environment," he said.
The most concrete development of the day was the agreement by China, Japan, South Korea and the 10 Southeast Asian nations on the Asian pool of foreign exchange reserves.
The 80-billion-dollar war chest, initially devised earlier this year, aims to save nations' currencies if need be, allowing them to dip into the pool of funds to fend off speculators.
"We plan with our East Asia dialogue partners to launch (the fund) as soon as possible," said Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, leader of ASEAN member Brunei.
The 80-billion-dollar fund would be created by the end of June next year, and be accompanied by an independent regional financial market surveillance organisation, according to South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak's spokesman.
However, no other party involved gave a firm timeline for when the fund would definitely be created.
Before Friday, Asian governments had mostly limited their intervention to cutting interest rates, guaranteeing bank deposits and injecting money into the credit markets — without the kind of coordinated action taken by Europe.

Mass kidnapping as wave of attacks hits southern Russia

More than 10 people have been kidnapped in the volatile province of Ingushetia in southern Russia, a local official said yesterday, as guerrilla attacks by rebels in the region intensify.
"Ten to 15 people were kidnapped last night in a gambling arcade by armed men in masks. They were driven away in their own cars," a local government spokesman told reporters, without giving further details about the incident.
Earlier RIA Novosti news agency quoted a local Interior Ministry official as saying that the kidnapping happened in the town of Ordzhonikidzevskaya and that four police officers were among those taken.
In other apparently unrelated attacks across Russia's restive North Caucasus region, a soldier and the wife of a local official were killed while at least 14 Russian officers were injured, Russian news agencies reported Friday.
Valentina Miroshnichenko, wife of the deputy mayor of Ordzhonikidzevskaya, was gunned down in the street by unidentified attackers in a Lada car and "died on her way to hospital," an Interior Ministry official said, Interfax reported.
The soldier died when the military vehicle he was riding in was hit Thursday by a roadside bomb in Chechnya, which has been ravaged by wars between Russian forces and separatist rebels since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"A soldier died from his injuries. Two have been hospitalised," an Interior Ministry official was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
Eight police officers were injured in other attacks in Chechnya, including one in which a police vehicle came under grenade fire, Interfax reported.
Human rights groups say violence by Islamist fighters and separatist rebels in this mostly Muslim part of southern Russia has reached unprecedented levels since the end of major combat operations in Chechnya several years ago.
In Dagestan, another high-risk Russian province next to Chechnya, four police officers were injured by a bomb blast on Thursday in the city of Khasavyurt, RIA Novosti news agency reported, quoting local police.