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APEC Leaders Kicking off Two-day Informal Meeting
Leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum on Saturday kicked off their two-day informal meeting in Mexico, seeking to promote economic growth through economic and technological cooperation.

The APEC meeting is being held against the backdrop of a deadly terrorist attack on the Indonesian island of Bali, bombings in the Philippines and a hostage-taking incident in Moscow earlier this month.

The fight against terrorism has become a major topic of the meeting. The leaders believe that a failure in the battle will do harm to trade and impede economic growth.

"Terrorism, no matter where it occurs or what form it takes, is a common threat to the whole mankind," Chinese President Jiang Zemin told the meeting, adding that the international community must work together to meet the challenges.

"If allowed to run amuck, that scourge will make peace and security impossible, and economic development out of the question," Jiang said.

When APEC leaders met in Shanghai last year just one month after the September 11 attacks on the United States, they issued a joint anti-terror statement. That meeting was "a good, solid beginning," Jiang said.

"China is a victim of terrorism," Jiang said. "We strongly condemn and oppose terrorism in all forms and manifestations."

According to the Chinese president, China has agreed to join the Container Security Initiative and welcomes such initiatives as the "Secure Trade in the APEC Region." China "will continue to firmly support and vigorously participate in the international counter-terrorism cooperation."

Secure Trade in the APEC Region or STAR initiative, which the US proposed on Thursday at the ministerial meeting, provides safety measures for movement of goods and people in the region.

Jiang said APEC should strengthen cooperation in tightening port and transport security, toughen measures against terrorist network financing and crack down on Internet crimes, in a bid to create an environment of peace and security for the economic development and prosperity of APEC members.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said terrorism impeded prosperity. But she noted that "...poverty feeds extremists. The war against terrorism is going to be long, difficult and borderless."

"If we neglect the economic imperative at this time when we are so concerned with terrorism, we would be feeding terrorism by promoting hunger, disease and ignorance," she said.

Referring to the bombing on October 12 on the island of Bali, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said: "We are the prime victim of that act of terrorism."

"Clearly we must fight terrorism that might take place wherever, whenever and by whomever," she said.

After the bombings killed more than 180 people in Bali, some countries have restricted travels to the beautiful island. Megawati urged the world community to lift the travel bans, which she said would bring more damage to the life of the residents. "I hope that such travel bans or limitations will soon be lifted."

The leaders' informal meeting, officially known as the 10th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, follows meetings of ministers and senior officials held earlier this week.

On Thursday, a joint statement issued by the ministers strongly condemned terrorism in all forms. The economic leaders are also expected to make a statement on anti-terror cooperation on Sunday.

China said it supported such a statement. "I support another counter-terrorism statement by the current meeting to further demonstrate our determined commitment to the war on terror," Jiang told the meeting.

The leaders are also expected to issue a declaration on economic growth and trade liberalization and facilitation.

How to move the global trade talks under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is another topic of the meeting. WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said APEC remained a "major promoter" of the global trade program.

In November 2001, the declaration of the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, provides the mandate for negotiations on a range of subjects, including issues concerning the implementation of existing agreements.

APEC ministers have pledged to help complete the talks by January 2005, the deadline set in Doha.

APEC, set up in 1989, now groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

(Xinhua News Agency October 26, 2002)

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