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a658: Powell to Bahamas for trade, drug, law talks (Haiti mentioned)(fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Jonathan Wright
NASSAU, Feb 6 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived
in the Bahamas on Wednesday for an annual meeting with Caribbean foreign
ministers on trade, migration, the regional AIDS epidemic and law
The Bush administration calls the Caribbean the "third border" of the
United States, after Canada and Mexico, and its main concern is to stem the
flow of drugs and illegal immigrants from and through the islands.
The region receives small amounts of U.S. aid, bundled into a Third
Border Initiative, but the aid to many of the countries is either static or
reduced in the Bush administration's budget request for the fiscal year
starting in October.
State Department officials said Powell, in meetings with the Caribbean
ministers on Thursday, would talk about trade, drugs, migration, access to
the U.S. market, development assistance and money laundering.
The region already enjoys access to the U.S. textiles market under the
Caribbean Basin Initiative, but that advantage has been partially eroded
since the United States granted similar treatment to Andean and African
He will also talk about U.S. help in fighting the AIDS/HIV epidemic in
the Caribbean, which has the highest per capita infection rates outside
The United States is giving $20 million to fight AIDS in the region
this year but has not earmarked an amount for 2003.
The Caribbean foreign ministers are from the Caribbean Community
CARICOM, which includes troubled Haiti as an associate member. The foreign
minister of the Dominican Republic, Hugo Tolentino Dipp, is also expected
The United States has had a difficult relationship with the government
of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, criticizing its handling of
A senior U.S. official said Powell had not planned a separate meeting
with Haitian Foreign Minister Antonio Joseph.
The Bush budget for 2003 cuts economic support funds to Haiti from $30
million to nothing, but adds $25 million in the form of development
assistance and health programs.
The U.S. official said the United States was trying to persuade all
the Caribbean nations to bring their banking regulations up to
international standards designed to combat money laundering and the
financing of terrorism.
Compliance became a high U.S. priority after the Sept. 11 attacks on
the United States and the U.S. attempts to crack down on money transfers to
and from al Qaeda, the organization blamed for the attacks.
Four island nations -- Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and St.
Vincent and the Grenadines -- are on the U.S. list of states deemed "not
"Many of these countries are trying to get off this list and I've seen
an increasing cooperation in recent months," said the official, who asked
not to be named.
The government of the Bahamas froze three suspect accounts after the
Sept. 11 attacks but later released the funds when U.S. officials decided
they were innocent, the official said.
Powell is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit the Bahamas since