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EDUCATION TOPS AGENDA OF SUMMIT IN ARGENTINA

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Education and the need for democratic reform in Cuba will top the agenda at the 21-nation Ibero-American summit that begins Monday in southern Argentina.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Spain's Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and King Juan Carlos are among those attending the fifth annual summit in the Andean mountain resort of Bariloche.Security for the two-day summit has been stepped up following recent media reports that members of Spain's Basque separatist group ETA and anti-Castro activists are planning to be in Bariloche during the meeting.

Education is the official summit subject. But Castro's presence is likely to prompt both condemnation of the U.S. trade embargo of the Caribbean island and calls for Castro to continue opening Cuba's socialist economy.

"Free market reforms have strengthened Cuba and so we believe now is the time to pressure them to make further progress," Guido di Tella, Argentina's foreign minister, said last week.

Officials will also discuss plans to form a hemispherewide free trade zone by 2005.

Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay comprise the Mercosur customs union, a market of 200 million people and combined gross domestic output of $750 billion.

Mercosur aims to incorporate other Latin American countries before linking up with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which combines the economies of Canada, Mexico and the United States.