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OAS to Discuss Security Threats to Americas

The Organization of American States (OAS) convenes a two-day meeting of foreign ministers Monday for what is being called a Special Conference on Security. A high level U.S. official says the gathering will focus on security threats to the Americas, ranging from terrorism to drug trafficking.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega says the Mexico City conference will provide an opportunity for the 34 active OAS members to identify transnational threats to security, and pledge cooperation to fight them.

In a briefing for reporters in Washington, Mr. Noriega says foreign ministers at the meeting are expected to endorse what he calls a "consensus document" on a wide variety of security problems.

"We will consider a document, which has been negotiated over the last several weeks that would be approved by ministers that would identify these new threats, concerns and other challenges," he said. "Among them [are] terrorism, transnational organized crime, the global drug problem, corruption, asset laundering, illicit traffic in weapons and the connections among these activities."

Mr. Noriega says foreign ministers are expected to discuss severe economic problems in the region that are causing chronic poverty, which he says is eroding support for development, and spawning disenchantment with efforts to promote free markets.

Mr. Noriega says these factors have combined to stir popular dissatisfaction and, in some cases, outbursts of violence.

He says the ministers will also discuss confidence and security-building measures that are intended to lower tensions among states.

"We know that peace in the hemisphere is built on the pillars of democracy, prosperity and security," said Mr. Noriega. "Our nations must take steps to defend these essential pillars. We will, in the meeting in Mexico City, be taking commitments to one another as a community to safeguard peace in the hemisphere by building confidence between the peoples of our states, as well as within these states, and by strengthening cooperation among these states to address the threats and new challenges we face."

Mr. Noriega says the Special Conference on Security will also consider natural and man-made disasters, including the AIDS epidemic, as well as other health risks and the deterioration of the environment.