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Clinton Pledges US Anti-Drug Support to Caribbean, Central America

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged new support to Central American and Caribbean allies to combat violent drug traffickers. Clinton is meeting counterparts from across Latin America at a meeting in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Secretary of State Clinton met with leaders of the Caribbean Community before the annual meeting of the Organization of American States in Honduras. She said President Obama's administration is seeking broader ties with the region, especially to help in the fight against drug traffickers.

"You are being subjected to relentless pressure from the narco-traffickers and the criminal gangs," said Clinton. "We want you to know that President Obama is ready to do whatever we think will work to assist you."

U.S. officials say counter-drug efforts have pushed traffickers to use new routes through the Caribbean, as they seek to ship drugs from South America into the United States or Europe. Battles between drug gangs and police in Mexico have killed hundreds of people in recent months, and experts fear violence could spread to other countries in the region.

Monday, Clinton was in El Salvador, where she pledged counter-drug support to that country's new president, Mauricio Funes.

"We will provide the technical assistance and the financial assistance that the new administration needs, because we want to be on the side of a president who will take on the criminals and drug traffickers," she said.

Shortly after taking office Monday, Funes said he welcomed U.S. support to counter organized crime and drug traffickers. He said one of his first priorities as president is to investigate reports that violent drug gangs have infiltrated the nation's police force.

Funes said he will wage a relentless battle in the fight against criminals and rid the police force of corrupt officers.

After their meeting, Secretary of State Clinton extended an invitation for the new president to meet President Obama in Washington, as soon as the two leaders can agree on a schedule.

Clinton joined her counterparts and other top officials from 34 nations in the hemisphere for the Organization of American States assembly. A major theme for delegates at the two-day meeting is expected to be finding ways to counter violence from drug gangs and others.