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Powell Meets With Caribbean Leaders

February 7, 2002

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NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) _ Colin Powell, the first secretary of state to visit this tropical island in 15 years, is meeting with Caribbean foreign ministers to talk trade and terrorism.

Powell also plans to promote the Bush administration’s ``third border initiative,″ which recognizes the Caribbean as a third border to the United States after Canada and Mexico.

The Caribbean is second only to sub-Saharan Africa in the incidence of AIDS, the administration says, and the initiative would send more money into the area for programs to fight the disease.

Other elements of the initiative would be to heighten regional airport security, provide scholarships for Caribbean students and train authorities from the region in countering money laundering.

Powell was scheduled to meet Thursday with leaders from the 14-nation Caribbean Community, which just completed a regional summit in Belize.

The meeting, postponed several times over the last year, will provide Caribbean leaders a chance to ask for U.S. money to fight terror, said Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

``We certainly want all the help we can get to help in the suppression of terrorism,″ Gonsalves said Tuesday in Belize.

The Bahamas froze several bank accounts after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States. The action illustrated the willingness of the island’s leaders ``to act very quickly,″ a senior administration official said. Leaders in other Caribbean countries also have helped identify bank accounts of potential terrorists, the official said.

Gonsalves said the foreign ministers also will ask Powell for more U.S. aid to deal with poverty in the Caribbean.

He said the meeting with Powell also will allow regional governments to discuss deportation of Caribbean nationals, noting what he called clear evidence in some community states that deportees from the United States are contributing to rising crime.

Last year, the United States and Canada deported more than 3,000 Caribbean nationals, mostly to Jamaica, Guyana and the Dominican Republic.

In many cases, the deportees are young men who have spent most of their lives in the United States. Once sent home, they resort to crime because they lack any support network, said Jerome Lebleu, associate director of the Caribbean Project at Washington’s Trinity College.

Powell also is expected to discuss other U.S.-Caribbean concerns, including stemming the flow of drugs through the islands, trade, economic development aid.

The meeting will be the first full session Powell will have had with the ministers and is in keeping with a tradition set by his predecessor, Madeleine Albright. In 1997, President Clinton met Caribbean leaders in Barbados.

Powell, a son of Jamaican immigrants, arrived in Nassau with his wife late Tuesday afternoon.


On the Net: Caribbean Community: http://www.caricom.org/

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