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Argentina wants to be regional leader, foreign minister says

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Argentina wants to be a "bridge builder" in Latin America
  • The country played a role in getting quarrelling Colombia and Venezuela to meet
  • Argentina's foreign minister met with Hillary Clinton on Wednesday
  • They discussed cooperation against terrorism

Washington (CNN) -- On the heels of a successful intervention between Colombia and Venezuela, Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said Wednesday that his country looks to become more of a regional "bridge builder" in Latin America.

Timerman was in Washington and met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The two officials talked about relations between the two allies.

Argentina is poised to help regional disputes be solved within the region itself, Timerman said in an interview with CNN en Espaņol.

He cited as an example that former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, in his capacity as head of the regional body UNASUR, paved the way for dialogue to happen between two quarreling nations. Colombia and Venezuela had cut off diplomatic relations over accusations that Venezuela is harboring Marxist guerrillas.

Kirchner helped broker a meeting the two sides had on Tuesday, where Colombia and Venezuela announced they were re-establishing ties.

"We believe in dialogue, in giving dialogue priority in working jointly, in being -- accepting toward different philosophies of government and not letting that become an impediment to a solution," Timerman said at a news conference with Clinton Wednesday. "And of course, above all, respect for each country's sovereignty."

"The United States appreciates the constructive, positive role that Argentina is playing in encouraging a peaceful resolution of the issues between Colombia and Venezuela," Clinton said.

In addition to regional leadership, Timerman said he and Clinton discussed cooperation against terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation. They also discussed increasing trade between the two countries, he said.

Timerman told CNN en Espaņol that they also talked about an issue where their views diverge: Honduras.

Following elections last year that brought in a government to replace a de facto government that had come into power after a coup, the United States moved to recognize Honduras. Argentina, along with other key nations in Latin America, has not taken that step yet.

Argentina wants to see that those responsible for the coup that ousted Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya are punished, and to see more guarantees for the freedom of expression of the opposition, Timerman said.

What the United States and Argentina agree on, Timerman said, is the desire to build a momentum in Honduras so that human rights issues that have come to light can be resolved.