Malaysian foreign minister on two-day Myanmar visit to discuss bilateral and regional issues

Malaysia's foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar was in Myanmar on Monday to discuss bilateral and regional issues with the country's military rulers.

Syed Hamid's two-day visit comes ahead of Malaysia's acting as host of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations' annual summit in December, when Myanmar's democratization process is expected to come under close scrutiny.

Since Myanmar joined the bloc in 1997, with strong support from Malaysia, the international community has criticized ASEAN for defending Myanmar despite its lack of progress toward democracy and improved human rights. During his visit, Syed Hamid was scheduled to meet Gen. Than Shwe, chairman of Myanmar's military junta, as well as Prime Minister Gen. Soe Win and Foreign Minister Nyan Win.

Malaysia is one of Myanmar's largest trading partners and investors among ASEAN countries, with two-way trade of US$256.2 million (211.3 million) in 2004. Malaysia ranks as the fourth-largest foreign investor in Myanmar, with total approved investment in 1998-2004 valued at US$660.7 million (544.9 million). The investments cover 26 projects, mainly for exploration for offshore oil and gas, reports the AP. I.L.

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