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Microsoft, Argentina unite for technological collaboration

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MIAMI (AP) -- Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates and Argentine President Carlos Menem signed an agreement Tuesday in which Microsoft pledged to help make Argentina one of the leading Latin American software producers.

Argentina, in turn, agreed to crack down on software piracy by increasing enforcement of intellectual property laws.Menem and Gates approved the broadly worded deal in a private meeting during Microsoft's annual conference on Latin American technology.

Menem said the government is starting a program called "Argentina 2010" aimed at making the country a strong software exporter to Spanish-speaking markets.

Few specifics were available on how Microsoft plans to help. In the agreement, the software giant pledged to cooperate in developing and promoting information technology; provide technological counseling to the Argentine government and donate educational materials.

"These agreements are pretty minimal in detail," said Microsoft spokesman Mark Thomas. "It's saying we're going to work together, and a lot of the details are to come."

The Redmond, Wash.-based company has had an office in Buenos Aires for years, Thomas said.

Demand for software in the region is growing. A decade ago, Argentina's government had one computer for every 23 employees, Menem said. Now it has a computer for every three employees, he told an audience at the Hotel Inter-Continental.

Menem said his government plans to start a program aimed at helping more of the nation's people become computer literate.