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Asean chief rejects Abbott's refugee boat policy

Published on Oct 24, 2012 8:42 AM
Secretary General of Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) Surin Pitsuwan delivers his speech during the 45th ASEAN Day ceremony at ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta on August 8, 2012. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan has labelled as "counterproductive" the controversial policy of the Australian opposition party to turn back asylum-seeker boats, a newspaper report said today.

Southeast Asia's top diplomat said he believed much of what Mr Tony Abbott said was rhetoric for a domestic audience but warned Australia's ties to the region could be hurt if he followed through with his threat.

"Rhetoric, political rhetoric, you have to take (Abbott's comments) as such," he said.

"I think Southeast Asia or Asean is really mature enough to appreciate that some of them are internal rhetoric for internal consumption, for internal political communication."

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