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RUMSFELD TOUTS SECURITY ON LATIN AMERICA TRIP

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met Saturday with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos and expressed support for regional security agreements aimed at reducing drug trafficking, terrorism and other threats in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"This collaboration will bolster the security of the Western Hemisphere," Rumsfeld said at a news conference with Hector Aleman, Panama's minister of government and justice, who spoke of efforts to ensure the Panama Canal is safe from terrorist attack.

U.S. officials say the primary terrorism threat in the region is related to the Colombian civil war and narcotics, not al-Qaida-style strikes.

Rumsfeld, on a weeklong trip through Latin America, already visited El Salvador and Nicaragua, two countries that contributed troops to peacekeeping operations in Iraq. He will tour the canal today and then head to Ecuador for a meeting of Western Hemisphere defense ministers.

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