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July 23, 2008

Asean Ministerial Meeting:
Singapore cancels traditional stage acts

Singapore has cancelled ASEAN's traditional night of skits and stage acts by ministers at the end of their annual talks, Antaa news agency quoted Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan as saying Tuesday.

Surin said he did not know why the Singaporeans had decided to pull the plug on what he described as "one of the highlights" of the sometimes dull annual foreign ministerial meetings.

"That's the privilege of the host," he said. "It was the decision of the host not to (keep the tradition) but I agree it was one of the highlights."

He said some of the ministers had taken it "too seriously" in previous years.

"The point was to relax and bond," Surin was qupoted by AFP as saying.

Singaporean officials refused to publicly confirm that the gala dinner at the presidential palace on Wednesday would be a strictly formal event featuring professional entertainment but no ministerial performances.

They would not comment on their reasons for cancelling the annual behind-closed-doors bonding session, highlights of which invariably leaked to the media.

Ministers from the 10 Asean countries - Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - plus dialogue partners such as the United States and Australia were expected at the dinner.

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