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Argentine military halts US training over cargo spat

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

"The four branches of armed forces were given until the 28th (of February) to submit plans for commissions abroad through 2011, and courses or seminars in which the instructors are military personnel will not be approved," Argentine Security Minister Nilda Garre said in the Pagina12 newspaper.

The move could further heighten tensions that flared when Argentine customs officials seized 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 worry about courses given by military forces of other countries on this issue because we have a very clear position as a country, which is that the armed forces can not have any involvement in internal security issues," Garre told another paper, Tiempo Argentino.

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

The decision came after Argentina's government and the US State Department exchanged tense statements over the incident that strained longstanding ties.

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 and seizure of its cargo.

US-Argentine bilateral ties are experiencing a chill, namely since US President Barack Obama chose to exclude Argentina from his first scheduled trip to Latin America, in March.

Obama will travel to El Salvador, Brazil and Chile next month.

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