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Strategy forming to target cartels

U.S., Mexico meeting to develop plans to bring warring drug cartels under control.

CUERNAVACA, Mexico — The U.S. and Mexico are creating a cross-border group to develop strategies for stopping the illegal flow of guns and drugs between the two countries, officials said.

Emerging from a conference with U.S. officials, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said more meetings are needed to develop plans to bring warring drug cartels under control along the border.

Medina Mora said Mexico planned to begin checking 10 percent of the vehicles entering the country from the U.S. for illegal weapons and will more closely check outgoing vehicles for drugs and money.

Medina Mora said the new vehicle-inspection measures were part of Mexico’s overall $1.4 billion modernization of border customs and crossing points. The first such vehicle checks are already being carried out in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

Medina Mora also said there had about 1,600 drug-related killings in Mexico in the first quarter of 2009, about 25 percent less than the last quarter of 2008. He did not give a reason for the decline, but the government says violence has decreased in border cities like Ciudad Juarez after thousands of additional army troops were sent there earlier this year.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that, in addition to beefing up border inspections north of the border, “we have to do more to reduce demand for drugs.”

Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met privately for several hours with Medina Mora and Mexico’s Interior Minister Fernando Gomez-Mont and Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna Thursday.

The officials hammered out an agreement that might be signed when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Mexican President Felipe Calderon later this month.

“We want to take advantage of this moment in time,” Napolitano said, referring to the elevated concern on both sides of the border about drug-related killings and kidnappings blamed on the cartels.

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