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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 March 2007, 04:20 GMT
Americas leaders focus on poverty
Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo (r) speaks at the summit
The 20-member Rio Group said it would help vulnerable communities
Latin American and Caribbean leaders have called for more attention to be paid to poverty and social problems.

The 20-member Rio Group, meeting in Guyana, expressed a commitment to helping the most vulnerable people but did not offer any specific remedies.

Correspondents say it is a largely symbolic declaration.

Chile's Michelle Bachelet and Mexico's Felipe Calderon were among eight heads of state to attend. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez cancelled because of ill health.

An agenda devoted to combating poverty and social ills was considered more likely to establish common ground than more divisive issues such as trade.

"We have to identify areas in which we are all in agreement, such as the social question that we've been discussing," Chile's President Michelle Bachelet told the Associated Press news agency.

Guyanese children wait for politicians to arrive for the summit
Preparations have been under way in Guyana for months

Preparations have been under way in Guyana for months for the annual summit, hosted by President Bharrat Jagdeo.

The Rio Group was set up 20 years ago as an alternative to the Organization of American States, which many nations then felt was overly dominated by the US.

Its official aims are to find solutions to regional problems and conflicts, as well as to enhance economic, social and scientific development.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Buenos Aires says that while some people criticise what they see as another talking shop, others say they are pleased to see leaders from this diverse and often argumentative region sitting round the same table.

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