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ASEAN chief nixes refugee policy of Australia's Abbott

SYDNEY -- ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan has labeled as “counterproductive” the controversial policy of the Australian opposition party to turn back asylum-seeker boats, a report said Wednesday.

As part of his plan to tackle the growing problem, opposition leader Tony Abbott has said he will instruct the navy to tow back the boats, which mostly travel from Indonesia, if he wins power in elections due next year.

Southeast Asia's top diplomat said he believed much of what 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.

Pitsuwan, who heads the 10-nation grouping, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “It will be counterproductive just to impose certain decisions on the neighbors at the risk of losing many other agendas, many other issues on the international agenda.”

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