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OAS Meeting Ends with Call to Fight Corruption - 2004-06-09


Sporadic protests greeted the final day of meetings of the Organization of American States in Quito, Ecuador as OAS ministers agreed on the need to fight corruption. Shortly before the meeting ended, U.S. Foreign Trade Secretary Robert Zoellick arrived in Quito for talks with Ecuador's president, Lucio Gutierrez.

Foreign ministers from the Americas declared war on corruption in the region on the final day of the OAS meeting in the Andean capital.

Corruption, the ministers are set to declare in a final document, weakens economic growth and hurts fundamental interests of a country's most vulnerable social groups.

On Wednesday, Ecuador's president, Lucio Gutierrez, holds talks U.S. Trade Secretary Robert Zoellick on the process of establishing a free trade deal between the countries. Ecuador -- along with Colombia and Peru -- recently began talks on a free trade pact with the United States covering such areas as agricultural products and intellectual property rights.

The Andean countries are scheduled to agree on the free trade agreement with the United States by late 2005. But the proposed agreement has aroused opposition from, among others, rural workers and Indians in Ecuador who believe it will be detrimental to them.

On Monday, President Gutierrez met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was in Quito for the first day of the OAS meeting. When asked by reporters whether the OAS would deal with issues regarding Iraq. Mr. Powell said a more important issue, for the OAS, was discussing ways to fight corruption.

Mr. Powell also voiced U.S. support for the democratic systemin Ecuador, where rumors of instability have circulated recently and the Congress discussed ways to legally remove Mr. Gutierrez from power.

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