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Old 04-15-10, 07:22 AM   #1
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Post Michelle Obama boosts US-Mexico ties in first solo trip (AFP)

AFP - Michelle Obama was on Thursday to meet US embassy employees in Mexico City after US interests were caught up in spiralling drug violence in northern Mexico.

The US first lady was also due to talk to Mexican youth leaders at the end of a first solo foreign trip during which she hugged and danced with dozens of children, and told several thousand university students: "Yes, we can," in a rousing speech.

"I intend to focus my international work as first lady on engaging young people just like you all around the world," the US first lady at the Ibero-American university here on Wednesday.

The US first lady also discussed the treatment of migrants and youth drug addiction with her Mexican counterpart Margarita Zavala, in a nation reeling from drug-related violence in which more than 22,700 people have died since the end of 2006.

Zavala's husband, President Felipe Calderon, has received growing support from the Obama administration in his brutal drug war, and Michelle Obama's trip followed a string of high-level visits to Mexico.

"We have to fight the (drug) war but keep looking at other ways to address the problem," Michelle Obama said in an interview on CNN in Spanish broadcast on Wednesday.

"Education is -- is also key to this issue," she added.

On her first international solo outing, after a brief stop on Tuesday in Haiti to show support three months after its devastating earthquake, Obama emphasized her support for key US partner Mexico, hard hit by the economic crisis and the negative fallout of its drug wars.

Her visit came as the United States was drawn further into Mexico's battle against violent drug gangs, particularly along the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) US-Mexico border.

Three US consulate-linked employees were shot dead in the border city of Ciudad Juarez in March and attackers tossed a grenade at the consulate in the northeastern city of Nuevo Laredo last week, causing no injuries.

The US State Department on Monday updated a travel advisory for Mexico, including a warning against unnecessary travel to some border areas.

Some 12 million documented and undocumented Mexicans are estimated to live in the United States, which accounts for some 80 percent of Mexico's foreign trade.

In a sign of strengthening US-Mexico relations, the Mexican president and his wife will be the guests of honor at the second White House state dinner of Barack Obama's presidency next month, and Calderon will make a speech to a joint session of the US Congress.

The US first lady was due to travel to an event on childhood obesity in San Diego, California later on Thursday.


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