Falklands On Agenda At Americas Summit

Toby Muse, in Cartagena

The ongoing dispute between Britain and Argentina over the Falklands Islands will be one of the central issues at this weekend's Summit of the Americas.

The conference brings together almost all the presidents of North America and Latin America in the Colombian port city of Cartagena.

Argentina will find a sympathetic audience among fellow Latin American countries to their claim to the Falklands.

"This is a very important issue for Argentina 30 years after the Malvinas (Falklands) war and we will make progress on this issue and see how we can help," said Colombia's foreign minister Maria Holguin.

She added that the continent was unified in believing "the solution must come through talks between Argentina and Great Britain".

US President Barack Obama is due to meet Argentine President Cristina Fernandez , and it is expected the pair will discuss the Falklands.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales has demanded the US make a stand and back Argentina's claim to the islands.

"We hope that the United States will adhere to the request of all the states and people of America and reaffirm the Falklands are Argentine, that the Falklands belong to America."

The other major issue to be discussed at the summit is the continued war on drugs.

All of the world's cocaine is produced in three Andean countries - Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.

Colombia has suffered waves of narcotic-related violence and parts of Central America and Mexico - important routes for cocaine on its way to the world's biggest consumer, the United States - have become virtual war zones as drug cartels battle for control of the lucrative business.

"Colombia has suffered the plague of drugs for years," said Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos .

"Central America is everyday more invaded by organised crime and for these reasons, it's necessary to grab the bull by the horns and start a discussion, if only to see if we can discover if there's a better way to attack it."

Mr Santos has compared the war on drugs, which was first announced under former US president Richard Nixon, to riding on an exercise bike - one pedals furiously but goes nowhere.

Guatemala's president has offered a number of alternatives to the current focus, including the decriminalisation of drugs or paying compensation to the transit countries for all the drugs they seize by the consuming countries of Europe and the US.

The US ambassador in Colombia has said his country welcomes a discussion on the issue, but analysts believe the US is unlikely to agree to any major change in how the war on drugs is prosecuted.

Meanwhile, before the sixth Summit of the Americas had even begun, a number of US Secret Service agents tasked with protecting President Obama were relieved of duty after allegations of misconduct.

Details of the claims have not been confirmed, but there are reports the accusations relate to prostitutes in Cartagena.

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