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Soldiers, police to Trinidad for summit security

Police and soldiers from several nations who will provide security for President Barack Obama and other leaders at a regional summit in Trinidad are already heading to the island, but a U.S. military official dismissed local media reports that Washington will have an aircraft carrier and dozens of fighter planes nearby.

Hundreds of troops and police from Belize, Suriname and other countries will help Trinidad's security forces keep order during the April 17-19 Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

A U.S. military source said there are no plans to have an aircraft carrier offshore and 25 jet fighters stationed on the island of Tobago, contrary to local media reports this week. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss security plans, said the reports were ``wrong.''

The twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is located just off the coast of Venezuela. The U.S. normally keeps military planes and personnel on Curacao, an island about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Venezuela and 465 miles (748 kilometers) west of Trinidad. The military's Forward Operating Location is used for counter-drug missions.

Soldiers from Barbados were seen arriving at Trinidad's Piarco International Airport on Monday. Nearly 80 soldiers and 30 policemen from Guyana are scheduled to fly there this week, said Col. Mark Phillips, deputy chief of staff of the Guyana Defense Force.

''This is all part of the regional security system that was put in place in the last three years for big international events in the Caribbean,'' Col. Mark Phillips, deputy chief of staff of the Guyana Defense Force, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Trinidadian authorities are using legal agreements that were in place for the 2007 Cricket World Cup that allowed security personnel from across the region to make arrests and work in other jurisdictions than their home counties. The World Cup was held in the Caribbean.

Planners have also pulled in private security firms with specific training such as protecting container piers.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that he is preparing plenty of verbal ''artillery'' for his first encounter with Obama at the summit. Chavez said he expects U.S. relations with Latin America will begin to take new shape at the summit of leaders from across the Americas.


Associated Press writer Bert Wilkenson contributed to this report from Georgetown, Guyana.