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'Madrid Declaration' Calls for Closer Cooperation in Fight Against Terrorism - 2002-05-18

Leaders from the European Union, Latin American and the Caribbean countries, meeting for the first time in three years Friday in Madrid, Spain, have called for a joint efforts to fight terrorism and drug trafficking.

The 48 heads of states and governments end their first of a two day summit with a call for an increased cooperation in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking between the two regions.

The 33-points Declaration of Madrid also called for closer economic ties and the promotion of free trade between the nations.

The tone of the summit was set by Spanish Prime Minister Jose María Aznar in his opening address in which he called for concerted action to fight terrorism. He said the terrorism have threatened the two region's common values of human rights, democracy, and international peace.

The Madrid declaration calls for combating international terrorism in all its forms and underlines it often close ties with drug trafficking as exemplified by the Colombian rebel group known as the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

The president of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana, was assured by Mr. Aznar that the FARC would soon be included in the EU's list of terrorist organizations. Mr. Aznar also took advantage of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' presence at the summit to ask for his cooperation in extraditing members of the violent Basque separatist group ETA who have found refuge in Venezuela.

Mr. Aznar's concern to fight terrorism was underlined in Madrid this week when police arrested two members of the ETA (The Basque Fatherland and Liberty) organization and seized 200 kilograms of explosives. Government officials in Madrid said the suspects were planning to carry out terrorist attacks during the summit.