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Bilateral Issues Take Center Stage at OAS General Assembly


Foreign ministers from the Americas have gathered in Dominican Republic for the general assembly of the Organization of American States. The agenda includes discussions of measures for improving economic and social conditions across the region. But the talks are dominated by bilateral disputes among OAS member states.

Officials from the 34-nation Organization of American States are holding a series of meetings to discuss regional initiatives and bilateral concerns. The main theme of the meeting is good government and development in the knowledge-based society.

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza told delegates in Santo Domingo that a major concern is the lack of technological resources in many nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. He says expanding access to technology is a key step to improving education, governance and other social conditions. He also recognized recent disputes between some member states because of differences over trade, politics or human rights issues.

Mr. Insulza said OAS members should be able to overcome their differences on trade issues and continue to advance regional integration, while recognizing each other's differences and holding a respectful debate.

One issue already dominating the OAS talks is Peru's complaint that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez interfered in Peru's presidential election campaign. Peru accused Mr. Chavez of intervening on behalf of nationalist candidate, Ollanta Humala.

Peru's Foreign Minister Oscar Maurtua said his delegation has been asking OAS leadership to respond to its concerns. He says the Peruvian delegation has reaffirmed its position of serious concern about Venezuela's clear interference in Peru. He adds that the Chief of the Electoral Observation Mission for the Organization of American States, Lloyd Axworthy, has also criticized the Venezuelan leader's comments. The Peruvian delegates say they are still awaiting a response from top OAS officials about their complaints.

Nicaragua has also accused President Chavez of meddling in its internal politics ahead of presidential elections to be held later this year.

Another issue expected to draw attention at the general assembly is Argentina's complaint that Uruguay's plans to build pulp mills on the River Uruguay will send polluted water to Argentina. Argentina filed a complaint at the International Court of Justice last month to block the plan, but some OAS officials have said they hope the dispute could be handled within the organization.

Also at the meeting, Bolivia is expected to press for the return of coastal land lost to Chile in a war in the 1800s.

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