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Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama plans to honor the victims of Argentina's "dirty war" when he visits the country next week, a trip that coincides with the anniversary of a military coup.
Obama plans to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral, White House officials said Wednesday, marking a conflict the United States fueled in a Cold War bid to prevent the spread of communism.
"The president's visit coincides with the 40th anniversary of the 1976 military coup," said Mark Feierstein, Obama's top Latin America policy advisor on the National Security Council.
"The president will honor the victims of the Dirty War, as well as those who defended human rights during that period."
It is a difficult subject for a US president in a country that remains among the most anti-American in the hemisphere.
Historical documents show US officials, including then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger, encouraged a regime crackdown that killed tens of thousands.
A 2005 visit by president George W. Bush was marked by mass protests.
Obama's visit is designed to offer support to new president Mauricio Macri's efforts to end a decade-and-a-half of financial isolation and political enmity with Washington.
Obama advisor Ben Rhodes said Obama would look to engage the controversial issue of US complicity in abuses.
"He believes that part of moving forward in the Americas or any other part of the world involves a clear-eyed recognition of the past," said Rhodes.
"I'm certain that in his town hall meeting and in his comments in Argentina, he will be more than willing to speak to what took place 40 years ago, to the suffering that took place after the coup and to the complicated history between the United States and Argentina as it relates to those events."