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Rumsfeld, Ecuadorian Leaders Vow Continued Cooperation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

QUITO, Ecuador, Nov. 16, 2004 – The United States and Ecuador are committed to working together to fight drug trafficking in the region, an important fund- raising source for extremists working against civil order, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld speaks during a joint press conference in Quito, Ecuador, Nov. 16. Photo by Master Sgt. James Bowman, USAF

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Following what he called "a good meeting" this morning with Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez and his senior advisers, Rumsfeld told reporters he's impressed by Ecuador's role in regional security efforts, ranging from peacekeeping to counternarcotics and counterterrorism efforts.

"The United States values Ecuador as a strong partner and friend," the secretary said during a joint press conference at the presidential palace with the Ecuadorian defense minister, retired Gen. Nelson Herrera.

Rumsfeld praised Ecuador's cooperation with Colombia and other nations against drug trafficking and other activities that destabilize civil societies. He said Colombia is having "measurable" success in its campaign against drugs and terrorism.

Drug trafficking in the region, as well as smuggling, piracy, money laundering and other illegal activities, are helping fund Hamas, Hezbollah and other extremist groups' activities, a senior defense official traveling with the secretary told reporters.

"If you look at the problems of the enemies of civil order, they need money," Rumsfeld said. "Terrorists have to raise money to conduct their attacks."

And while this fund-raising effort is worldwide, the secretary said he's seen instances of fund-raising efforts in the Western Hemisphere by both the Hamas and Hezbollah organizations.

"The only real way to defeat the terrorists is to put pressure on them across the board," the secretary said. "We have to deny them safe havens; we have to seek them out where they are; and we have to cooperate internationally in reducing their ability to raise money."

Rumsfeld said "extensive cooperation" is the only way nations can achieve this goal and that it's showing signs of success. "We have seen evidence that the pressure that has been put on (terrorists') financing has seen some effect," he said. "But we still have a lot of work to do."

While stressing the importance of cooperation to deter drug trafficking and other regional security threats, Rumsfeld was quick to point out it's not for the United States to dictate what contribution Ecuador or any other country should make.

"The role that Ecuador should play is the role that Ecuador decides is appropriate for it as a country," he said, responding to a reporter's question. "Those are decisions each country in the hemisphere has to make for themselves."

During the press conference, Rumsfeld praised Ecuador for its peacekeeping initiatives, including support for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Ecuador is among nine countries from the region that have sent troops to Haiti to help prevent violence between those who support and oppose Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's former president.

"All of these efforts contribute to the security of this hemisphere," the secretary said of Ecuador's regional security efforts. "And security is the essential foundation for further progress for all the people of the Americas."

Increasing regional security cooperation will be a major focus of the sixth Defense Ministerial of the Americans conference that kicked off here today. Rumsfeld called Ecuador's hosting of the session "another demonstration of the leadership Ecuador is providing in regional affairs."

"I'm confident the ministerial defense meeting will be looking for additional ways we can improve our cooperation with the goal of strengthening this inter- American system," Rumsfeld said.

Following today's bilateral meeting with Gutierrez, Rumsfeld was slated to meet with defense ministers from Argentina and Brazil before participating in a multilateral meeting with a delegation of Central Americans.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

Related Sites:
U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the Ecuadorian defense minister, retired Gen. Nelson Herrera, pledge their countries' continued cooperation to counter security threats to the region during a joint press conference Nov. 16 in Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Master Sgt. James Bowman, USAF  
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