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April 6, 2003
 
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Caribbean Leaders End Talks
Caribbean Leaders End Talks Evaluating Regional Effects of War in Iraq

The Associated Press


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Reporter's Notebook: Baghdad Fighting Intensifies
Points of Interest in Baghdad for U.S.
A Sharp Turn in U.S. Perceptions of War
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica April 6

Caribbean leaders promised Sunday to work together to help their economies, suffering from a drop in tourism after the start of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Many Caribbean countries oppose the war, saying it has further weakened their economies just as they began recovering from a travel slowdown after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"With the situation in Iraq, we know that things will only get worse," said Prime Minister Pierre Charles of Dominica, wrapping up a two-day Caribbean Community meeting.

The regional organization's stated opposition to the war has created fissures among Caribbean leaders and angered the United States, the region's largest trading partner.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Lester Bird skipped the meeting, saying Friday he didn't feel the group had the authority to represent the region's views on the war.

His statement came after a top U.S. envoy to the region, Otto Reich, warned that criticism of the war could make it hard to secure U.S. support for programs benefiting Caribbean governments.

Other nations represented at the weekend meeting included Jamaica, Trinidad, St. Lucia and Belize. Officials will report their findings to the full 15-member Caribbean Community when it meets in July.

A task force announced at the meeting will study a possible common strategy for helping regional airlines, but a bailout was unlikely, Charles said.

Some officials are also discussing the possibility of merging the airlines into a single entity serving the entire region.

Air Jamaica, which lost $80 million last year, has seen reservations drop by nearly 40 percent since the start of the war on March 20, forcing the carrier to reduce flights to key U.S. cities. Other airlines, including Trinidad-based airline BWIA and LIAT, say they also are struggling.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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