Monday, March 30, 2009

LONDON (AP) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Monday he’s ruled out joint raids with the United States aimed at stemming drug cartel violence along their border, but called for closer cooperation between the neighboring nations.

Calderon said he wants the U.S. to share intelligence on drugs traffickers and help Mexican law enforcement by providing high-tech surveillance equipment.

He urged U.S. President Barack Obama to do more to reduce demand in the U.S. for drugs produced in Mexico and to stop the flow of powerful weapons, including assault rifles, over the border.

“It is true that we do have a problem of violence and organized crime that we have to tackle,” Calderon told reporters in London, speaking through a translator. “It is acknowledged by President Obama this is a common problem that we have to face commonly.” But he said “that does not imply, or shall not imply, the joint participation of military operations, or even the joint participation of law enforcement agents.”

Most Mexicans oppose any U.S. intervention on their side of the border, in part due to lingering sensitivities over the U.S. seizure of swathes of Mexican territory, including the area which now comprises Texas and California, in the mid-19th century.

Calderon said both countries should instead step up their efforts on their respective sides of the border.

Mexico claims that since 2006, around 9,000 people have been killed in violence linked to Mexico’s drugs cartels. Army troops have been deployed in an attempt to root out criminals and drugs traffickers.

“We are facing this problem with a firm hand and a determination that has not previously happened in our country,” Calderon told reporters after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Obama said in an interview aired Sunday that violence in Mexico’s north is a serious threat to U.S. border communities.

He said he was considering putting more National Guard troops on the U.S. border and will take steps to limit the flow of cash and guns heading south into Mexico.

Calderon is in London for a state visit. He was due to spend Monday evening dining at Buckingham Palace’s ballroom with Queen Elizabeth II and invited dignitaries.

His comments to the media came as his military commanders met their U.S. counterparts on the Mexican side of the border to discuss the escalating violence.

Mexico’s Defense Department said the officials were exchanging experiences in the annual closed-door meeting in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora state, bordering Arizona. The meeting ends Thursday.


Associated Press Writer E. Eduardo Castillo in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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