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Mr. Shifter said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s strong reaction, which included a crippling trade embargo, was predictable and “probably would have been hard to moderate even with the best diplomacy.”

“I believe the Colombians wanted a more expansive, formal accord to cover U.S. access to the facilities in their territory,” said Roger Noriega, who was assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs in the Bush administration. “They decided on modalities, and we were eager to continue our cooperation.”

Mr. Noriega said a strong U.S.-Colombia relationship is beneficial for both countries and the region and that he thought a formal pact was inevitable. However, the court’s decision “must be respected,” he said.