Six South American presidents declared their region a "zone of peace" Friday and pledged fresh resolve toward creating a hemisphere-wide free trade zone by 2005.
Meeting amid snow-dusted peaks in southernmost Argentina, the four presidents of the South American trading bloc Mercosur were joined by their Bolivian and Chilean counterparts for a one-day trade summit.South African President Nelson Mandela also took part, expressing interest in greater ties across the South Atlantic while declaring that the rush toward globalization should not leave out the poorer, less powerful nations.
"Today we affirm that Mercosur is a zone of peace and is at peace," President Carlos Menem of Argentina told summit partners at a hotel overlooking Ushuaia.
The Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay declared the region free of arms of mass destruction and said peace is essential to full economic integration.
Bolivia and Chile also joined in the declaration as associate members of Mercosur.