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OAS Countries to Discuss Security in the Americas - 2003-10-26

Foreign Ministers and other top officials from 34 countries are meeting in Mexico City Monday for a two-day Special Conference on Security in the Americas. The two-day meeting will focus on threats such as terrorism, drug-trafficking and organized crime, as well as concerns about the effects of severe economic problems and environmental disasters.

Mexican Ambassador Miguel Ruiz-Cabańas, who is in charge of organizing the event, says each country in the Organization of American States has specific security concerns. But he stressed the importance of an integrated approach to security issues that takes into account the concerns of all, and better prepares the region to face new security threats.

Ambassador Ruiz-Cabańas says the principal aim of the conference is to consider a draft declaration, which recognizes security as a multi-dimensional issue, rather than the exclusive responsibility of the military.

The document would identify threats from terrorism, organized crime, corruption and illicit trafficking in drugs and weapons. But the draft also recognizes that, for some countries, the greatest threat may come from natural disasters, disease or the effects of extreme poverty on social stability.

U.S. Ambassador in Mexico Tony Garza highlighted the necessity for delegates to tackle the region's pressing economic challenges. Mr. Garza said that "without democracy and prosperity, there is no stable basis for building peace and security."

Other areas of discussion include the possible use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists, illicit trafficking of people, attacks on cyber security, as well as the potential consequences of an accident involving radioactive material, toxic waste or petroleum.