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Manning sets the tone for Summit

Prime Minister Patrick Manning last night set the tone for the Fifth Summit of the Americas, when he called on leaders to be politically mature and not allow any one subject to cause discord, as he made reference to the contentious issue of the US trade embargo against Cuba.

"It will be a mistake if we allow any one issue to dominate our deliberations, so many important matters on the agenda.

"It will be a tragedy if we allow any one issue to be a great source of discord among us and it will be an error of existential proportions if we are not able to conduct our business on the basis of cordiality and mutual respect," Manning said, as he delivered one of several speeches during the opening ceremony yesterday at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain.

"And let it not be said that we failed our people in their hour of need because we lacked the maturity and good sense to conduct our business in a rational and objective manner," he continued.

The Prime Minister, however, made it clear that the time had come to see the proper reintegration of Cuba into the Western hemisphere. He said the words of US President Barack Obama, who spoke before him, were a great cause for optimism.

Manning said Obama's presidency brings hope and the people of Trinidad and Tobago, like others around the world, remain positive that his administration will herald the dawn of a new day.

The Prime Minister outlined a number of key issues which, he said, should be discussed by the heads.

Crime was one of them. Manning explained that the Caribbean is a major transshipment point for drugs and guns, noting the drugs are passed to the north but the guns remain, creating a major crime problem.

Manning added that the question of terrorism, which was now raising its head in the region, was also a cause for concern, as he called for an advanced passenger information system, which he said was an important step to addressing this problem.

On the issue of oil and gas, Manning said countries in the region aim to guarantee energy security, but this could only be achieved through proper relations. He said if this was not the case, then the anticipated level of energy security would not be available to us and the nuclear option would become more attractive and a question of international concern, involving the possible proliferation of nuclear weapons, could rear its head.

Manning also spoke about the global financial crisis, noting the time had come to create a new architecture designed to bring about a more equitable distribution of the resources. He also raised concern over the effect of this crisis on Caribbean islands which depend on tourism for revenues, saying its future must also be discussed.