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North American Leaders Pledge Action on Swine Flu, Economy, Security



The leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico have concluded their brief summit by pledging more cooperation to fight the swine influenza A-H1N1 virus and illegal drug cartels as well as to strengthen the North American economy. As VOA's Kent Klein reports from Guadalajara, Mexico, U.S. President Barack Obama also gave a spirited defense of his policy toward Honduras.

President Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have left Guadalajara with a promise to work together to prepare for the next swine flu outbreak, expected later this year.

Mr. Harper said the three nations can build on their previous efforts. "The excellent cooperation among our three countries was effective in helping to manage the initial outbreak, and we will continue our cooperative efforts," he said.

President Obama said greater cooperation is imperative throughout North America. "With science as our guide, we resolve to continue taking all necessary preparations and precautions to prepare for the upcoming flu season, and protect the health of our people. This challenge transcends borders, and so must our response," he said.

The three leaders also concentrated on boosting the regional economy, which has suffered in the global recession. Mr. Obama promised aggressive and coordinated action to restore economic growth.

The president and the Canadian prime minister reaffirmed their support for Mexican President Calderon's war against illegal drug cartels.

But Mr. Obama pressed his Mexican counterpart to be careful to observe human rights. "I have great confidence in President Calderon's administration, applying the law enforcement techniques that are necessary to curb the power of the cartels, but doing so in a way that is consistent with human rights," he said.

Mr. Calderon responded, through a translator, that he is most concerned about the right of Mexican citizens to walk the streets in safety. "The struggle, the battle, the fight against organized crime is precisely to preserve the human rights of the Mexican people," he said.

President Obama downplayed disagreements with Canada over the "Buy American" provision of the U.S. economic stimulus plan. Mr. Obama said the clause has not endangered the billions of dollars in commerce between the world's two biggest trading partners.

All three leaders reaffirmed their support for democracy in Honduras and called for the return of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup on June 28.

Mr. Obama responded angrily to criticism of U.S. involvement in efforts to restore Mr. Zelaya to power. "The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who are always saying that we are always intervening, and Yankees need to get out of Latin America. You cannot have it both ways," he said.

Prime Minister Harper then defended U.S. policy. "If I were an American, I would be really fed up with this kind of hypocrisy. The United States is accused of meddling, except for when it is accused of not meddling," he said.

The North American summit also served as a prelude to the G-20 summit of major and developing economies, set for September in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the October summit on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Mr. Harper is scheduled to visit the Washington in September, and he agreed to host the next North American summit in Canada next year.

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