Ibero-American summit opens amid EU finance woes

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Spain's royal couple and Portugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva were in Argentina Friday for a summit with Latin American leaders overshadowed by financial troubles in Europe.

The 20th Ibero-American Summit, set to begin Friday with talks among foreign ministers, was to address the themes of "education and social inclusion."

But Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero scrapped plans to attend in order to combat economic woes at home.

Some observers fears Spain and possibly Portugal may have to follow the example of Ireland and Greece in seeking a bailout to cope with a huge debt burden.

The situation is vastly different from a decade ago, when a cash-rich Madrid was investing billions of euros in a region that includes a number of its former colonies.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain arrived late Thursday in Mar del Plata, a popular beach resort where the summit is being held.

A total of 19 Latin American countries plus Spain, Portugal and Andorra will participate in the summit

On the sidelines, Latin American countries will choose a new leader for UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, to replace Argentina's former president Nestor Kirchner, who died earlier this year.

Venezuela and Colombia are each offering candidates, with a leader expected to be chosen by consensus Friday after the gathering of Ibero-American foreign ministers.

© 2010 AFP

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