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Leaders Inaugurate East Asia Summit

Vladimir Putin in Kuala Lumpur on 13 December (epa) 14 December 2005 -- Leaders of 16 countries have inaugurated a new forum aimed developing economic and trade cooperation in East Asia.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is hosting the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, today announced the establishment of the new East Asia Summit.

"We have all agreed that the East Asian community will be a reality in the future as cooperation begins to grow and as cooperation becomes stronger and the level of understanding becomes better," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the first East Asia Summit in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur as an observer. But reports say no consensus emerged during the meeting about whether to include Russia as a member.

Some supporters of the grouping see it potentially emerging as a pan-Asian free-trade bloc.

The summit brought together Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand and was hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose members include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The United States was pointedly not invited.

(news agencies)

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