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Asia-Europe Meeting: Build Growth With Cooperation

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VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) -- Leaders from Asia and Europe called Tuesday for closer cooperation between the two continents in addressing the current global economic and financial crisis.

The president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, also unequivocally affirmed the euro's future.

A two-day Asia-Europe Meeting in Laos was attended by leaders and ministers from 51 countries, including new members Norway, Switzerland, and Bangladesh.

The meeting, known as ASEM, endorsed closer economic ties between the two continents to promote stronger and sustained growth. Combined, the two regions produce half the world's GDP and have 60 percent of the world's population.

The crisis in Europe has affected not only most economies there but also their trading partners in Asia. But Van Rompuy said there was no sign of Asian resentment that it was being asked to carry its ailing European friends.

"There was no blame game," he said. "Rather a clear sense that in Asia as well as in Europe, we are all on the same boat."

The leaders also reaffirmed a commitment to fight against trade barriers that have crept in some places as a result of the crisis, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said.

He said there was "a strong rejection of protectionism" and a commitment to the "importance that trade can have for strong sustainable growth."

Although not on the ASEM agenda, the issue of financially battered Greece was on many minds at the summit.

Greece's international bailout creditors are demanding a series of painful spending cuts and tax hikes in exchange for rescue loans. Debt inspectors from the European Central Bank, European Commission, and International Monetary Fund, collectively known as the troika, are preparing a report on the state of Greece's compliance with its bailout terms.

Van Rompuy played down fears of problems with the disbursement of Greece's next bailout payment.

"I urge the Greek government and leading political parties to decide what is needed to reach a final agreement with the troika," he said.

The next ASEM summit will be in Brussels in two years.

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