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Politics

EU-Latin American summit reconvenes, without Rousseff

Latin American and European leaders have begun a second day of talks in Chile, seeking a free trade deal and other strategic partnerships. President Dilma Rousseff left for Brazil after a major nightclub fire.

A major nightclub fire in southern Brazil overshadowed the second day of the summit between EU and Latin American leaders in Santiago de Chile.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, scheduled to stay in Chile through Monday, departed to return home amid the fatal fire which claimed more than 200 lives.

A spokesperson for the German government in Berlin said Chancellor Angela Merkel had offered her condolences to the remaining Brazilian delegation, while Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed his "deepest sympathy" from Berlin.

"I am most deeply upset by this terrible accident," Westerwelle said.

Merkel said that the EU needed to continue efforts to rein in public debt and kick-start economic growth to instill confidence among trading partners elsewhere.

"The most important thing for countries here is that they have the impression that we in the eurozone are overcoming the crisis together, and not leaving some countries hanging," Merkel said on Sunday.

The summit brings EU leaders together with top politicians from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, more commonly known as CELAC. CELAC is a community of 33 American countries excluding the US and Canada, formed under its current guise in December 2011. The meeting in Chile is the seventh between the two blocs, but the first since CELAC's formation.

Closer ties sought, but barriers remain

All participants on Saturday issued a joint statement saying they planned a "strategic partnership to achieve sustainable development," with Merkel lauding both "broad-minded and dynamic" ties and Latin America's economic progress.

"The dynamic development of this entire region shows that we, within the EU, must strive to ensure we are not left behind, to improve our competitiveness, to reduce our debt. We cannot live on the backs of future generations," Merkel said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told business leaders at the summit that it was important to "rein in protectionism and promote liberalization" in order to deepen trade ties. EU agriculture subsidies, which can lead to exports undercutting prices from regional producers, is a bone of contention on the CELAC side.

The CELAC delegations were to remain in Chile after the joint summit concludes on Sunday evening. The bloc will hold its own summit on Monday, during which Cuba will take over the body's chairmanship as Chile's term concludes.

msh/dr (AFP, dpa)