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Rumsfeld Optimistic About Bilateral, Multilateral Meetings

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

QUITO, Ecuador, Nov. 17, 2004 – "Very upbeat" is the appraisal of a series of meetings here Nov. 16 between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the defense ministers of Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil and seven Central American countries.

Rumsfeld "could not be more pleased" with demonstrated progress and pledges to continue working cooperatively to increase security in the region, a senior defense official told reporters traveling with the secretary.

"This bodes well for a free trade agreement," the official said. "That's good for both of us, for the region and for the United States, to get a common grip on these security issues because security is what creates the conditions for investment. Everyone agrees on that."

Rumsfeld's bilateral meeting with Brazilian Vice President Jose Alencar, who also became the country's defense minister nine days earlier, focused on Haiti and Brazil's role leading the U.N. peacekeeping force there, the official said.

"All agreed that it's a difficult situation. It's always has been a difficult place," the official said.

Although the Brazilians agreed that the United Nations "has been moving slowly in assembling the force," the official said, the Brazilians reported during today's meeting that the situation on the ground in Haiti is improving as the force gets built up. "They gave a fairly upbeat view about where it is headed," he said.

Brazil is talking about beefing up its force on the ground as well, currently at 1,200.

In addition to the Haiti mission, the meeting focused on global issues, terrorism and fund-raising for terrorist groups, the official said. "We agreed that it's something all countries need to work on," he said.

Also discussed was Brazil's aerial surveillance system, SIVAM. The acronym stands for a Portuguese system name that translates into English as "System for the Vigilance Surveillance of the Amazon." In addition, meeting participants discussed ways to create a more regional approach to air interdiction to stop drug and weapons trafficking.

Brazil considers increased security in the region an essential step toward helping lift people out of poverty, the official said. "President (Luiz Inacio) Lula (da Silva) sees security and development as being totally connected," he said.

The first-ever multinational meeting between a U.S. defense secretary and the defense ministers from all seven Central American countries represented "a unique historical moment," the official said.

The defense ministers of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Panama participated in the session, during which they discussed regional security issues and their desire to increase cooperation.

Nicaragua agreed to host the next Defense Ministerial of the Americas, in 2006, "as a joint Central American production," the official said.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

Related Sites:
U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti

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