MANILA — The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed Friday on a draft accord to fight terrorism and border crime, including measures to create joint rapid-response forces.
The United States has offered to help countries in Southeast Asia act against militant groups, saying it fears that Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror group seeks to turn the area into a hub for operations.
Deputy foreign ministers of the three countries, all grappling with Muslim extremist violence, ended a two-day conference in Manila on Friday to finalize the accord.
Brunei and Thailand sent observers to the meeting.
The draft document calls for a system to determine how the countries can collaborate to confront terrorism, arms trafficking and other crimes.
Foreign ministers of the three countries are to debate and possibly sign the document at their annual meeting in Phuket, Thailand, early next year.
The United States has provided equipment, intelligence and military advisors to help the Philippines in its fight against the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic separatist group that has been linked to Al Qaeda.
Muslim extremists also are thought to operate in other parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Lauro Baja said the countries also tentatively agreed to draft and distribute among one another a list of terrorism suspects.
Piracy and the smuggling of drugs and arms are rampant in the three countries' border areas, generating funds that could finance terrorism. Smuggled arms also have entered the countries.
Such cooperation would benefit the Philippines partly because of its weak military and its ongoing battle to destroy Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, who are holding an American couple and a Filipino nurse hostage on the southern island of Basilan.
Philippine officials, who drafted the accord, hope other Southeast Asian countries will join the anti-terrorism effort spearheaded by the three countries, members of the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations.