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Summit of American Nations Opens to Address Energy Concerns

The Organization of American States has opened its 37th general assembly to address concerns over energy supplies and the need to develop alternative forms of energy. In Panama City, VOA's Brian Wagner reports that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the opening session to pledge the support of the world body.

Delegates from the 34 member nations of the Organization of American States gathered in the national theater in Panama City for the opening session of the annual general assembly.

Speaking to delegates, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon welcomed plans to discuss the role stable energy supplies have in sustaining economic development and alleviating poverty.

He said the Americas region has emerged as a world leader in the development of biofuels, which are mainly produced in Brazil and the United States. Mr. Ban also praised efforts to boost energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, especially amid growing concerns about the impacts of climate change.

The U.N. chief warned that climate change may prevent countries from fulfilling Millennium Development goals of cutting poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability by the target date of 2015.

"We have arrived at a tipping point. Global warming could seriously impair our ability to reach the goals and even reverse achievements in human development," Mr. Ban said.

Mr. Ban said the United Nations has been working closely with the OAS on energy issues, as well as peace-building and electoral projects around the region.

OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza also spoke to delegates, to address concerns over poverty, crime and corruption. He said one key fear is the growing influence of money from organized crime and drug trafficking on politics in some nations.

Mr. Insulza says leaders must pay attention to political financing not only to avoid inequality, but to ensure that crime and politics do not become a threat to the region's democracies.

Meetings of foreign ministers and other OAS delegates are to continue over the next two days before officials release the final declaration of the assembly.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to attend meetings Monday in Panama City, where officials say she will discuss U.S.-led alternative energy projects and pending free trade agreements with Latin American nations.