US to update defense accords with Uruguay, Peru

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The United States is seeking to update its defense accords with Latin American countries and has started talks with Uruguay and Peru to that effect, the Pentagon announced.

At a meeting in Punta del Este on Sunday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his counterpart from Uruguay, Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro, agreed that updating their agreement -- which dates back to 1953 -- would strengthen it further, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

"This agreement will modernize the framework for future US-Uruguayan defense cooperation," Little said after the gathering that took place ahead of a meeting of defense ministers from the Americas that starts Monday.

On Saturday, Panetta and Peruvian Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano announced similar negotiations between Lima and Washington on an accord that dates back to 1952.

"It's 60 years ago, it was the era of the Cold War," said a senior US defense official who requested anonymity. "Our engagement was focused on a different kind of challenge and some of the elements such as the way we go about doing exercises are outdated."

Washington has similar defense agreements with Argentina, Colombia and Brazil.

In a region where for decades the United States has played the role of a policeman, these new accords also need to be consistent with US strategy in the region that is aimed at "enhancing and institutionalizing partnerships and innovative approaches to dealing with others," according to the official.

Also Sunday, Panetta met with the defense ministers of Canada and El Salvador, Peter MacKay and Jose Benitez.