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US wants South America to be 'zone of peace': Gates

by Staff Writers
Santiago (AFP) Nov 20, 2010
The United States wants South America to remain free of conflict and will support initiatives that promote transparency in arms deals in the region, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday.

"Obviously we want South America to remain a zone of peace," Gates told a news conference here after meeting his Chilean counterpart Jaime Ravinet as part of a four-day trip to the continent to bolster military cooperation.

"The percentage of spending on the military in South America is among the lowest in the world," Gates noted.

Washington has repeatedly urged against any moves towards an arms race in the region, with the Pentagon expressing concern over transparency in military deals made by some countries such as Venezuela.

Gates also praised Chilean officials for their disaster response efforts, notably after a huge earthquake in February and the triumph last month in rescuing 33 trapped miners in the northern Atacama desert.

After talks in Santiago Gates was due in Bolivia for a conference of regional defense ministers. On the sidelines of the conference, Gates is expected to meet with defense ministers from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador.

earlier related report
Top FARC leader thought to be killed in Colombia raid
Bogota (AFP) Nov 20, 2010 - A top FARC commander was "apparently" killed Saturday in a military operation against the leftist rebel group in southern Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos said.

Jose Benito Cabrera, also known as Fabian Ramirez -- one of seven top leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- was thought to have been killed in the early morning raid on a rebel camp in Meta department, Santos told reporters.

"I say apparently because it is not confirmed," he said, adding that Colombian troops killed up to five rebels in the operation, and recovered equipment and other possessions including a computer belonging to Cabrera.

The leader, 47, took center stage in the failed 1998-2002 peace talks, and has since commanded the FARC's operations in the south of the country. He is accused of involvement in the killing of more than 50 Colombia troops.

The FARC, Latin America's oldest and largest insurgency, has been trying for 40 years to overthrow the Colombian government. Santos, in office since August, has vowed to redouble efforts to bring the group to heel.

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