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Don't Let Terrorism Detract from Other Issues, Warns Brazil's Leader - 2001-11-19

Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has called on regional lawmakers not to let the war on terrorism obscure the need to continue the fight against poverty and inequality. The Brazilian leader made the appeal Monday in Rio de Janeiro, where addressed a three-day conference of western hemisphere lawmakers.

President Cardoso said the terrorist attacks of September 11 threatened democracy, and he called for unity in the hemisphere to confront the dangers posed by terrorism. But the Brazilian leader told hemispheric lawmakers that the region also needs to be united to address the problems of poverty and inequality.

President Cardoso said it would be a big mistake to let the war on terrorism become the only item in the world agenda. We have another agenda, he said, that of reducing inequality, promoting development and democratizing international relations.

To the loud applause of the delegates, Mr. Carodoso warned against letting the fight against terrorism obscure the fight against poverty and inequality.

The Brazilian leader spoke at the third General Assembly of the Parliamentary Conference of the Americas - a forum that was created to promote hemispheric integration and parliamentary democracy. It was established as a result of the 1994 Summit of the Americas when all the leaders of the hemisphere, with the exception of Cuba, met and agreed to negotiate a hemisphere-wide free trade zone.

The Free Trade Area of the Americas, which is to go into effect in 2005, is one of the main topics of discussion at this parliamentary conference in Rio de Janeiro. Other subjects include peace and human rights in the Americas, the eradication of poverty, and drug trafficking. Delegates are presenting and discussing ideas for dealing with these issues, and are expected to pass resolutions which they will take back to their parliaments for debate.

At Monday's opening, the President of the Parliamentary Conference of the Americas, Brazilian deputy Geraldo Magela, called for creating a supra-national Parliament of the Americas similar to that of the European Union. He said such a body could deal with regional and international issues affecting the hemisphere.

Many delegates welcomed the proposal. But a U.S. participant, Michigan state representative, democrat Derrick Hale, said he doubts the United States would accept such an idea. "I don't think that'll fly too well in the United States because I think we like our own autonomous state and governmental policy, so to speak," Mr. Hale said. "But I think in this area it may work because based on different regions they have different needs and concerns."

The assembly of western hemisphere lawmakers ends on Wednesday.