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Clinton Bringing Communications Gear to Chile

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the eve of a visit to Chile to show solidarity with that country amid its earthquake disaster, says she is bringing in communications gear requested by the Chilean government. Clinton spoke in Montevideo where she attended the inauguration of new Uruguayan President Jose Mujica.

In the wake of the earthquake, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to scale back her planned daylong visit to Chile to just a few hours of airport meetings with President Michelle Bachelet and President-elect Sebastian Pinera on Tuesday in Santiago.

But at a press event in Uruguay's capital, Clinton said she decided to go ahead with at least a symbolic visit, to underscore U.S. solidarity with Chile and deliver a first installment of emergency communications gear requested by Chilean authorities.

"They have asked for communication equipment, some which I am bringing on our plane," she said. "Other technical equipment will be flown there in addition. But one of the reasons they have asked me to continue my trip is to assess whatever else they might need, and immediately to begin the process of providing it."

The electronic equipment is the first U.S. aid sought by Chile after Saturday's powerful earthquake.

In telephone calls to Chilean leaders, U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton have also offered, along other things, to deploy U.S. search and rescue teams.

Clinton's presence at the Uruguayan inauguration underlines the Obama administration's commitment to work with Latin American governments from across the political spectrum, including left-leaning ones like Uruguay's.

The new President, Jose Mujica, is a former member of a 1970s left-wing urban guerrilla movement and succeeds another member of the Broad Front coalition of leftist parties, Tabare Vazquez.

At a joint press appearance after a pre-inaugural meeting with Mr. Mujica, Clinton paid tribute to his efforts to unify the country after hard-fought elections in November and to work with the opposition.

Mr. Mujica, for his part, admitted that Latin Americans have long had prejudices and stereotypical views of U.S. politicians - some of which he said were shattered by the election in November 2008 of Barack Obama, the first African-American U.S. president.

"That is something we had never thought would be possible, and that was out of pure prejudice on our side," he said. "That is a lesson, a magnificent lesson, that we learned. And that speaks of the wonderful changes that have been going through in America."

Scrapping plans to spend a night in Santiago, Clinton decided instead to travel to Buenos Aires late Monday for a meeting with Argentine President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The visit comes amid a renewal of tensions between Argentina and Britain over the Falkland Islands, or Malvinas, off Argentina's southern coast.

The United States is neutral in the two countries' competing claims to the islands, over which they fought a brief war in 1982.

Clinton told reporters here the dispute should be resolved through negotiations by the two countries and that the United States "stands ready" to be of any assistance it can in that process.