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APEC Summit Protests Turn Violent in Chile


In Santiago, Chile there have been violent protests in the streets as President Bush and 20 other leaders from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, forum hold their summit. The president is using this meeting to push for more cooperation on security and counter-terrorism measures.

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets here in recent days, condemning the free trade agenda of the APEC summit and specifically targeting President Bush over the war in Iraq. While most demonstrators have been peaceful, there have been several hundred who have stormed police positions, throwing rocks and gasoline bombs.

Police say at least two of their officers and one civilian were wounded by gunfire Saturday morning at one clash with protesters. Authorities say at least 17 police officers have been injured in the disturbances and that police have arrested more than 180 people.

The turmoil in the downtown streets has had little effect on the APEC meetings, which are taking place in an isolated area protected by thousands of police and Chilean military units.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush underlined the importance of not only the free trade talks, but the work being done by APEC members to fight criminal activity and terrorism.

"This year, APEC leaders will work together to improve the security of our ships in ports," he said. "We will develop a new system to track and stop the travel of suspected terrorists using forged or stolen documents and we have launched new programs to support APEC members that have the will to fight terror, but need help in developing the means. Terrorism is a threat not just to the West or to the wealthy, but to every nation and every nation must fight the murderers."

Some Asian leaders have expressed concern that security and counter-terrorism talks might overshadow moves to quicken the pace of talks aimed at creating a Pacific rim free trade zone. But U.S. officials say trade and security go hand-in-hand and that the United States remains committed to the goal of forming such a regional free trade area by no later than the year 2020.

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