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Mexican press aide lifts US gov BlackBerrys

Presidential summit devices go walkabout

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A press aide to Mexican president Felipe Calderon has been given his marching orders for making off with BlackBerrys belonging to US officials participating in a summit in New Orleans, AP reports.

Rafael Quintero Curiel admitted removing the devices from the get-together between the heads of Canada, Mexico and the US last week. He said he "thought they had been left behind and planned to return them".

Officials are apparently asked to leave mobile phones and other devices outside meeting rooms lest they interrupt vital matters of state, and Curiel is said to have lifted a few before making his way to the airport - an act caught on CCTV, according to local media reports.

Curiel later explained in a statement to Mexican media that "as he rushed to the airport, he had given them to a driver to take back to the hotel to hand them over to management". He was, however, confronted by US U.S. Secret Service agents at the airport, who asked him to return the kit, and then "thanked him for his help when he explained the incident".

White House Press Secretary Dana Marie Perino confirmed "an individual from the Mexican delegation or a staff member was involved in... the disappearance of a couple of BlackBerrys", but said she didn't know whether they contained sensitive information.

She added: "The matter is under investigation by law enforcement officials and they haven't decided yet what exactly happened, but they're working on it."

Perino concluded: "I'm going to let the investigation take place before I comment on it."

An anonymous Mexican government spokeswoman confimed Cureil had been sacked from his job "coordinating logistics for reporters covering President Felipe Calderon's international trips" following the incident. ®

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