Source: Standard-Times (MA) Contact: http://www.s-t.com/ Pubdate: Sun, 19 Apr 1998 Author: Tom Raum, Associated Press writer CLINTON VOWS COMMITMENT TO TRADE ZONE SANTIAGO, Chile -- The hemisphere's 34 democracies charted plans for a free-trade zone from Alaska to Cape Horn today, even without U.S. congressional blessings, and reached agreements on education, drugs and human rights. At the second Summit of the Americas, the United States also held fast to its insistence that Cuba continue to be excluded from such gatherings -- even as it was announced that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien would travel to Cuba later this month to meet Fidel Castro. Canada will host the next summit of Western Hemisphere leaders. President Clinton, who came to Santiago without the fast-track trade authority he needs to finish the job of hemispheric free trade by 2005, pledged to redouble his efforts to get it. "I assure you that our commitment ... will be in the fast lane of our concerns," Clinton said, brushing aside his inability to win support for the initiative from U.S. lawmakers, particularly from his own Democratic party. Although trade was the summit's centerpiece, yesterday's talks focused on other areas. The leaders embraced a $6.1 billion three-year package to help improve education. Summit partners have set a 2010 goal for 100 percent of the hemisphere's children to have access to at least a primary-school education; 75 percent for high school. "We must ensure that schools and teachers reach into every corner of the continent," said Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo. Most of the package would be in loans by international lending agencies like the World Bank, but $130 million would come from U.S. programs, said U.S. officials, who announced the program in advance of today's final summit communique. In all, the hemispheric summit was announcing some $45 billion in loans over the next three years for poverty reduction, health services, helping small busineses and education. In other agreements yesterday, the summit partners: - - Agreed to establish a Multilateral Counterdrug Alliance to coordinate the war on drugs in the Americas. In part, it is being set up to soothe irritation felt by Latin Amrican nations toward the current U.S. drug certification process, where the United States withholds foreign aid to nations it considers unworthy allies on drug issues. - - Gave support to the creation of an office, as part of the International Commission for Human Rights, to help resolve human-rights cases involving attacks and threats of violence against members of the news media. But the upbeat declarations by some of the summit participants obscured some major irritants, including the drug certification issue and the question of Cuban participation. Under U.S. law, the State Department must certify a country is cooperating in the war on drugs before a nation qualifies for foreign aid, a process that annoys Latin American countries. The new Multilateral Counterdrug Alliance will supplement, rather than replace, that system, U.S. officials said. There are also differences on Cuba. Some nations want Castro included in the next summit. The Clinton administration has opposed Cuban participation under its present communist government.