Wednesday, April 30th 2003 - 21:00 UTC

US-Chile trade agreement on hold.

Chilean Foreign Minister Soledad Alvear said in Santiago on her return from Washington that the free trade agreement reached with the United States will be signed and approved, however she also admitted that US Secretary Colin Powell indicated there was no definitive date for the event.

Ms. Alvear last Monday met with Mr. Powell during the Council of the Americas 33 edition and apparently told the Chilean Minister that the Bush administration was committed to the agreement although "the Executive had to explore the best moment and opportunity to send the document to Congress, and that's what we are doing at the moment".

The Chilean Foreign Secretary dismissed the suggestion that the signing of the trade treaty was linked to Chile's future position as a non permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Chile and Mexico as Latin America's representatives in the UN Security Council did not support the coalition's military intervention in Iraq.

"They are two very different situations. We will continue to work in the Security Council with the same spirit, trying to muster resolutions that have as much as possible the unanimous support of all members", said Ms. Alvear adding that the "most urgent and delicate" situation at the moment is feeding the Iraqi population and helping with the country's reconstruction.

During the meeting of the Council of Americas Mr. Powell admitted that the war in Iraq had caused "disagreements" between United States and Latinamerica, but the time has come "to stretch hands and again work together in the United Nations".

"I'm absolutely certain of one thing, disagreements come and go,?but we have the wisdom to overcome these periods of disagreement and build a better hemisphere", stressed Mr. Powell addressing the Council of the Americas.

Nevertheless US Secretary of State made a point on mentioning the countries that did support Washington in the Iraq campaign: Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Dominican Republic.

"It's no secret of our deception when some of our friends did not agree with us, but that belongs to the past. Saddam and his regime belong to the past. We now have an opportunity to work together to ensure that the Security Council makes effective its responsibilities".

"We count with Latinamerican members in the Security Council to join us in ensuring that the Council can go ahead with its vital role in the reconstruction of Iraq", added Mr. Powell.

However in Washington there's still plenty of lobbying ahead. Republicans in Congress detached Chile from a bill approving free trade pacts leaving Singapore, which means a further delay for the Santiago government aspiration.

Besides Colombia was granted an additional 100 million US dollars in aid and President Bush received the five Central American presidents promising to speed free trade talks.

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