Amid discord on climate change policy, ministers from Asia - including India's - met European Union members in the German port of Hamburg for talks on world crises.
The two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of 43 nations Monday was marked by a division between European countries seeking deep cuts in world carbon-dioxide emissions and Asian governments countering that they did not cause global warming. ASEM is held every two years. India, Pakistan and Mongolia are attending for the first time.
An estimated 4,000 protesters who marched toward the summit venue in a dry run for next month's demonstrations at the G8 economic summit were stopped at a police cordon several streets from the venue. Hundreds of militants from the crowd later clashed with riot police, who used water cannons against protestors and made dozens of arrests.
"We in the Asia-Europe Meeting represent about 50 percent of gross domestic product, 58 percent of the global population and 60 percent of international trade," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in remarks to open the first round of ASEM talks in a Hamburg hotel.
The three working sessions Monday and Tuesday were to cover issues ranging from crises with Iran and North Korea to anti-terrorism policies.
Monday in Hamburg, Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win defended his government's one-year extension of house arrest for Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, telling Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso it had been "a very difficult decision."
A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Win had explained that the Myanmar military junta had been concerned with both "political stability" and negative reactions from the international community.
Earlier, after an advance meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Steinmeier said that he remained hopeful that agreement on emissions reductions could be reached with China before a world summit on global warming in December in Bali.
Voicing a sentiment shared by many Asian nations, which oppose sharp cuts, Yang said that China already had its own targets and made clear that Beijing believes it is up to industrialized countries to cut world emissions.
"China is a developing country, and per capita emission of greenhouse gases in China is much lower than in developed nations," he said. "China is really in need of development. A substantial number of people in China are living under the poverty line."
The demonstration, where radicals from several European nations rallied, was described by organizers as part of the build-up to the Group of Eight summit, to be hosted by Germany June 6-8 in the beach resort of Heiligendamm.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out Saturday in support of the right to demonstrate peacefully and voiced sympathy for environmentalist calls for deep cuts in emissions, one of her key demands at the G8 summit.
German authorities, who were also treating Monday's event as practice for next month, said they would crack down hard on any rioting. Monday's demonstrators found themselves marching between a cordon of riot police accompanying the procession.
Organizers voiced frustration at the cordon and said that police barriers made it difficult for the crowd to disperse when the event finished in the face of a line of police blocking the route.
Later, hundreds of far-left demonstrators wearing ski masks built a barricade and set it ablaze in a counterculture section of Hamburg.
Police extinguished the fire, shoved barricade aside and arrested 24 demonstrators on suspicion of violence including attacks on security officers and making firebombs, a police spokesman said. Another 64 people were detained.
Two demonstrators and two police were reported injured in the incidents.