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Argentina-US row over CIA comment

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana. Photo: 26/02/09
Mr Taiana said Argentina was well prepared to weather the global crisis

Argentina has summoned the US ambassador in an angry protest against comments by the CIA director about the country's economic problems.

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana described the remarks by Leon Panetta as "an unacceptable interference" in Argentina's internal affairs.

Mr Panetta said Argentina - and Ecuador and Venezuela - could be destabilised by the global economic crisis.

US envoy Earl Wayne later said the comments had been misinterpreted.

'Foreign source'

Mr Taiana described Mr Panetta's comments as "irresponsible" and "unfounded".

CIA director Leon Panetta. Photo: 25/02/09
Mr Panetta did not reveal his source

"It is an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs," the minister said at a news conference on Thursday.

Mr Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, made his comments a day earlier.

He told reporters that he had spoken to a source who informed him that "there are some serious problems that we have to pay attention to in Latin America that involve economic instability".

When asked to name the countries the source was referring to, Mr Panetta said: "The concern particularly involved Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela."

The CIA chief did not reveal who the source was.

Ambassador Wayne later said the CIA chief's remarks had been misinterpeted.

He told C5N TV that Mr Panetta was simply relaying the opinion of a "foreign source", not expressing concerns about the economic stability in Argentina.

Argentina is South America's second-largest economy.

The country's GDP grew steadily every year after it recovered from the economic meltdown in 2001-02. The government expects a modest growth this year.

However, some economists say the economy may even shrink amid a plummeting demand for Argentina's beef, corn, soy and wheat.

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