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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

"Rummie" south of the border..

(US Secretary of Defense was in Argentina earlier this morning for a meeting with his Argentine counterpart Jose Pampuro as part of his regional tour.)

Rumsfeld emphasized the "common challenges facing the United States and Argentina."

Both Pampuro and Rumsfeld confirmed they spoke about radars the defense department is trying to peddle, regional security, UN peace missions and joint military exercises.

Rumsfeld stated that "the relationship continues to strengthen. There is a long standing friendship between both countries which also bases itself on common challenges." Journalists were not allowed questions.

The meeting lasting a little more than an hour focused on analyzing the threats to hemispheric security, recently shaken by the Bolivian crisis, and the purchase of arms and military weaponry by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

In addition, and strictly on the bilateral front, the resumption of joint military exercises was discussed as was the plan for radarization of Argentina.

With respect to joint exercuses, Pampuro remarked that the exercies are "absolutely necessary training exercises. We anlyzed the agenda and studied different options for moving forward, always respecting the laws of each country."

Apparently Argentina, in the past, rejected awarding complete immunity to US troops, arguing for the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, of which it is a signatory but the US does not recognize. (This has been holding up carrying out joint exercises in Argentina.)

Another of the subjects touched upon was the situation of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Rumsfeld recognized the actions of Argentine troops involved as part of the peacekeeping force: "Argentina is having a vital role in the UN operations in Haiti. We saw photographs depicting the floods that have affected Haiti and it was impressive how the Argentine troops, after losing their own belongings, were able to alleviate the suffering of the Haitian people."

This is the first visit of the Pentagon chief who in a few hours will continue his tour to Brazil and Guatemala.

In any case, in spite of the mutual praises, there was no definition on one of the more touchy subjects: if Argentina will accept or not to immediately mondernize three 3D radars (capable of detecting three vectors: object, hight, velocity, and special to detect illegal flights) of the US company Northrop Grumman.

The Argentine defense deparment insists its fundamental to carry out a "ultra-transparent" bidding process and clearly define if the modernization is such.

(this is a translation I have made of a report on Argentina's clarin newspaper web site- argentine newspaper to be found here)

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