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Burma to Skip 2006 ASEAN Chairmanship

Burma says it will give up its turn to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in late 2006 in order to focus on national reconciliation and restoring democracy.

ASEAN foreign ministers meeting today (Tuesday) in Laos say they will allow Rangoon to take up the chairmanship position when it is ready.

The announcement ends weeks of speculation and intense pressure -- both within ASEAN and from the international community -- to deny military ruled Burma the rotating position because of its lack of progress on democratic reforms.

The United States and European Union had threatened to boycott ASEAN meetings if Burma assumed the chair. EU Foreign policy chief Javier Solana says the European Union is pleased today's announcement..