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Caribbean leaders, with communist stalwart Fidel Castro among them, opened talks Friday on a new trade pact with Europe, saying they must stick together if their small nations are to survive in the global economy.

The meeting of 14 Caribbean Forum nations -- a region whose slave-worked plantations made fortunes for European colonialists in past centuries -- will focus on their position for upcoming negotiations with the European Union.

Castro, whose arrival Thursday dominated the eve of the summit, is attending as an observer.

In his opening remarks, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez stressed the importance of regional unity.

"It is not correct to speak of an English Caribbean, a Spanish Caribbean, a French or a Dutch Caribbean. In reality there is only one Caribbean -- ours," he said.

The Caribbean nations are particularly concerned that the EU might try to negotiate separate regional pacts.

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