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Argentina halts US military training amid cargo spat

by Staff Writers
Buenos Aires (AFP) Feb 20, 2011
Argentina is suspending its participation in foreign military training in the wake of a diplomatic row over its seizure of materials from a US military plane, a top official said Sunday.

Argentine Security Minister Nilda Garre told the Pagina12 newspaper that the government would not approve commissions abroad through 2011 that included "courses or seminars in which the instructors are military personnel."

The move could further heighten tensions following Argentine customs officials' seizure of what they said was sensitive "hidden material in an official shipment" during a search of a US Air Force C-17 transport plane.

The plane had arrived earlier this month in Buenos Aires with experts and material for a hostage rescue training exercise.

Argentine authorities said the cargo contained undocumented weapons and drugs, including morphine.

US officials described the cargo as routine equipment for training the Argentine federal police, and said seized items included batteries, medicine, a rifle and communications equipment.

"We are surprised that Argentina has chosen not to resolve a simple dispute involving training equipment. And we still want our stuff back," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on the micro-blogging website Twitter.

Garre told the Tiempo Argentino newspaper that the government was concerned about courses given by foreign military trainers because "the armed forces cannot have any involvement in internal security issues."

It would be "illogical for armed forces in another country to be training Argentine security forces," she added.

Earlier this week, Argentina accused the United States of being uncooperative with a probe into the incident, while the State Department said it was "puzzled and disturbed" by the sudden search of the plane.

Relations have cooled since US President Barack Obama chose to exclude Argentina from his first scheduled trip to Latin America in March, which will take him to El Salvador, Brazil and Chile.

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