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India accepted to East Asia summit

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar.
New Zealand

(CNN) -- Australia's participation at a key regional trade, economic and security summit in Asia remains in doubt, according to Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar.

But India will attend the inaugural summit, to be held in Malaysia in December.

Australia has received mixed support in the region for its proposed participation, in particular because it will not sign a key non-aggression treaty.

Syed Hamid said both Australia and New Zealand could attend if they signed the treaty and added that India would definitely be attending.

"We have no problem with Australia and New Zealand as long as they know the terms," Syed Hamid said, according to a report on Japan's Kyodo news service.

"India will definitely be invited because they have satisfied the criteria," he said.

Syed Hamid spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Malaysia on Monday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark confirmed Monday that her country would sign the treaty and attend the summit, the report said.

Australia has been lobbying hard to garner support for its inclusion at the summit but with mixed success.

On a recent trip to Australia, Vietnam's Prime Minister Phan Van Khai backed Canberra's push for more acceptance in the region and inclusion at the summit.

Indonesia, Japan and Singapore have also publicly declared support for Australia joining the summit.

But China and Malaysia have been less welcoming. At last month's Boao economic forum in China, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi used his address to lecture Australia that the treaty was fundamental to the interests and well being of the East Asian community.

The summit, which is being billed as a rival trading power to the U.S. and EU, requires all participants to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. The treaty forbids the use of force to settle disputes among the signatories.

The signing of such a treaty would have prevented Australia's intervention in East Timor in 1999. Australia's refusal to sign the treaty also follows comments by Australian Prime Minister John Howard last year, that Australia was prepared to unilaterally conduct pre-emptive strikes against "terrorist threats" in the region.

The U.S. has not been invited to the summit but on a visit to Malaysia, U.S. Deputy State Security Robert Zoellick said it did not mean the U.S. was being left out of the region.

"We have the ASEAN Regional Forum, which discusses security issues in ASEAN. We have APEC and then there is the ASEAN plus-three. There is a multiplicity of arrangements here," he told Kyodo news.

"The U.S. presence, both in security and economic terms, is a daily fact of life as people saw on December 26 (when the U.S. mobilized its military to provide aid to tsunami victims). We have many ways in which we interact with the region," Zoellick said.

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