U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Central American democracies must work together to fight drug trafficking, smuggling, hostage-taking, terrorism and gang violence.

Mr. Rumsfeld is hosting a two-day conference in Miami on regional security cooperation with defense ministers from seven Central American countries. The Defense Department says the meeting is meant to strengthen Central America's group identity and capabilities.

In addition to the topics Mr. Rumsfeld listed, ministers are discussing maritime security and the formation of a regional peacekeeping unit and a rapid response force for coping with disasters.

The ministers may also address the role improved security can play in promoting economic development.

Participants include ministers from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama. Mexico and several other countries were expected to send observers.

Some information for this report provided by AP, Reuters.