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Bush: Argentina an Important Ally and Partner - 2002-01-03


President Bush has told Argentina's new leader that the United States will continue to pursue close relations between the countries as Argentina prepares for what could be another devaluation of its currency.

President Bush telephoned Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso to discuss the economic crisis in Argentina. White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Mr. Bush and his top advisors continue to monitor events in Argentina closely as the president continues his vacation on his Texas ranch.

Mr. McClellan said President Bush considers Argentina "an important, steadfast ally and partner." He said the U.S. ambassador in Buenos Aires delivered a personal message from Mr. Bush to Argentina's new President Eduardo Duhalde.

Mr. McClellan said the message offered "congratulations and best wishes" to President Duhalde and to the Argentine people and expressed confidence in what he called "our continued close relations based on shared values."

At least 27 people were killed last month in rioting over an economic austerity program. President Duhalde - who is the country's fifth leader in two weeks - is expected to serve until elections in December 2003. He blames free-market economic policies for the country's deepening recession and has named a new economy minister who is expected to further devalue the currency.

That could add to the country's 18 percent unemployment rate as people would need more pesos to settle hard-currency debts. Argentina has suspended payments on public debt of more than $130 billion.

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