- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2005

SALAMANCA, Spain — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called yesterday for greater progress in trade talks on farming at a summit of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries. Cuban dissidents used the summit to urge the arrest of Fidel Castro, who stayed away along with four other Latin leaders.

Mr. Annan said developed nations should reduce subsidies to their farmers and cut tariffs on food to aid developing countries, saying that progress had already been made in World Trade Organization negotiations on aid and debt relief.

“If 2005 was a year of important progress on aid and debt relief, 2006 must be the year of trade,” Mr. Annan said. “If we are to conclude the Doha negotiations by the end of next year we need to make real progress at the WTO talks in Hong Kong in December.”

The Doha round, named for the Qatari capital where it was launched in 2001, is set to conclude next year. The talks aim to slash subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to global commerce.

Mr. Castro was absent from the annual Ibero-American summit of 22 countries. Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said the 79-year-old leader was busy coordinating aid to Central American countries hit by Hurricane Stan and earthquake victims in Pakistan. It was the fifth successive summit Mr. Castro has skipped.

In Madrid, Cuban dissidents asked a Spanish court to indict Mr. Castro on charges of genocide and other offenses by using a growing body of international law that allows courts in one country to judge human rights crimes purportedly committed in another, regardless of the suspect’s nationality.

The suit also called for his arrest if he turned up at the summit. The court took no immediate action on the suit.

The presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador also decided to stay home to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Stan. The leaders of Ecuador and Nicaragua turned down invitations because of internal political problems.

The summit opened with Mr. Annan, Spain’s King Juan Carlos and leaders from Spain, Portugal and 15 Latin American countries standing for a moment of silence for the more than 1,400 people killed in flooding and mudslides triggered by Hurricane Stan in Central America and Mexico.

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