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Terror, Iraq, N. Korea on APEC Summit Agenda - 2002-10-21

Officials from 21 Pacific Rim nations have gathered in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, known as APEC. Among the topics heads of state are to discuss later in the week are terrorism, a possible war with Iraq and North Korea's nuclear program.

Not much is expected from this latest gathering of leaders and top officials from the Pacific Rim, other than some general statements in support of free trade and a condemnation of terrorism. Most of the real work will be accomplished in meetings between foreign ministers in the coming days and between heads of state on the weekend.

In his meetings with officials from China and Japan in Cabo San Lucas, Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to discuss the recent revelation that North Korea has an active nuclear weapons program. He will also address the issues of terrorism and a possible U.S. attack on Iraq in his private meetings with foreign ministers from various APEC member nations.

Terrorism, in particular, is a matter of deep concern for many of the nations who are represented at the meeting. The bomb attack in Bali, Indonesia, on October 12 that claimed more than 180 lives has awakened fears of new terrorist threats in that part of Asia.

In the past year, the United States, Canada, Russia, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines have also been affected directly or indirectly by terrorism. In Latin America, only Colombia faces a severe terrorist threat from its internal civil conflict.

Economic matters are at the heart of any APEC meeting, and there are several contentious issues that are likely to arise. Mexico is in dispute with China over allegations that China dumps cheap products on the Mexican market, but closes its own market to Mexican goods.

Mexico is also hoping to revive talks with the United States over a proposed immigration accord. That effort was sidetracked after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.

After he arrives in Cabo San Lucas on Saturday, President Bush is expected to meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox to focus on immigration, free trade, and the joint effort against possible use of Mexico as an entry point for terrorists planning attacks on U.S. soil.

Mr. Bush will also discuss terrorism, and a possible armed conflict with Iraq with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin has been reluctant to support military action against Iraq.

Security is tight in the Mexican Pacific-coast resort area, which lies at the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula. More than 3,000 Mexican soldiers, federal agents and state police are on hand. There are also Mexican naval patrols off the coast.