- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

MEXICO CITY — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are doing everything they can to get into the United States through Mexico and Canada.

Miss Rice, on her first trip to Mexico since taking over at the State Department in late January, echoed concerns raised by government officials in congressional testimony last month about the motives of the terrorist network blamed for the September 11 attacks.

“Indeed we have from time to time had reports about al Qaeda trying to use our southern border but also trying to use our northern border,” Miss Rice told reporters. “There is no secret that al Qaeda will try to get into this country and into other countries by any means they possibly can.

“That’s how they managed to do it before and they will do everything that they can to cross the borders,” she said.

Intelligence from current investigations, detentions and other sources suggests that al Qaeda has considered using the Southwest border to infiltrate the United States, according to testimony from a top Homeland Security Department official last month before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Several al Qaeda leaders believe operatives can pay their way into the country through Mexico, and also believe illegal entry is more advantageous than legal entry for operational security reasons,” James Loy, deputy secretary at the time, said in his testimony.

Miss Rice made the one-day trip to Mexico to meet with President Vicente Fox and Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez. Emerging from her meeting with Mr. Derbez, she announced that the two countries had settled a decades-old, cross-water debt.

Mexico will transfer enough water to the United States to cover a debt that Texas has claimed that Mexico has owed under a 1944 treaty. That water-sharing pact requires Mexico to send the United States an average of 350,000 acre-feet of water annually from six Rio Grande tributaries. The United States in return must send Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet from the Colorado River.

She also was to announce a $10 million grant to support the expansion of a Mexican program that provides citizens with banking services and small-business loans.

Miss Rice said progress has been made in securing the border since the September 11 attacks, but that the United States is obligated to alert its citizens of concerns.

“We and the Mexicans have a robust dialogue about border security, and I believe we’re going to continue to have that,” she said. “This is not a matter of pointing fingers. This is a matter of really trying to get the best possible coordination and work that we can so that there’s safety for citizens in both countries, on both sides of the border.”

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