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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 02:37 GMT 03:37 UK
Guatemala eyes joint peace force
Participants in the summit
Donald Rumsfeld called the Florida talks "unique"
Central America should have a joint peacekeeping force, Guatemala has told a security conference in Florida attended by regional states and the US.

Defence Minister Gen Carlos Aldana said a battalion-strength force would boost economic and political stability and also help handle natural disasters.

"We want to focus on a universal soldier - a soldier of peace," he said.

The eight nations meeting in Key Biscayne are discussing threats ranging from drug-trafficking to terrorism.

Guatemala, Gen Aldana said, planned a joint peacekeeping battalion with El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

If it came about, he added, it should be ratified by a treaty that would include specific personnel and financial commitments from each participant.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described the two-day talks as a "unique moment for the Americas".

He said that "drug-traffickers, smugglers, hostage-takers, terrorists, violent gangs" posed serious threats for the region.

Delegations from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the US are at the talks.

They come as Guatemala and its neighbours recover from Tropical Storm Stan which claimed hundreds of lives.

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