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Washington (AFP) Oct 4, 2012
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will head to Peru and Uruguay on Friday, on a trip aimed at boosting ties with two key Latin American allies before he attends a top NATO meeting in Brussels.
In Lima, Panetta will meet President Ollanta Humala and Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano, Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters.
"This trip will reaffirm the department's commitment to strengthening partnership around the world, particularly in Latin America and Europe," said Little.
The United States has provided Peru with surveillance planes to disrupt drug traffickers and help tackle remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla group. Washington gave Lima $659 million in associated aid between 2006 and 2011.
A senior US defense official said Panetta would offer further help to Peru under the Ministry of Defense Advisers program, a scheme currently being used in Afghanistan.
"What MODA does is that it embeds technical experts within the MOD for one or two years and they can provide technical advice," the official said.
Panetta will be in Uruguay on Sunday, the Pentagon said, and he will take part in the 10th Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas at the Punta del Este resort, before traveling to Brussels on Monday.
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