- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Anti-drug trade pact
Venezuelan Ambassador Ignacio Arcaya is urging the United States to include his country in an anti-drug trade agreement designed to prevent the spread of illegal narcotics.
Mr. Arcaya said Colombia's efforts to combat the drug trade could force drug traffickers across the border into Venezuela, the only Andean country excluded from the trade pact that rewards South American nations with trade benefits for their war on drugs.
Venezuela was left out of the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) when the treaty was signed 10 years ago because Venezuela was not a major source of drug production, he said.
"However, drug trafficking through Venezuela has increased, and the achievement of Colombia's [anti-drug] goals could lead drug cartels to look for cultivation areas in countries surrounding Colombia," Mr. Arcaya said in a recent speech at the World Trade Center in New Orleans.
The pact gives special trade preferences to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru in exchange for their efforts to encourage legal crops and eradicate the growth of coca and poppy, which produce cocaine and heroin.
"Incentives like those in the ATPA for legal productive activities in Venezuela are more crucial now than ever," he said.
Mr. Arcaya noted that Venezuela is a "fundamental ally of the United States in the war against illicit drugs."
In addition, Venezuela is one of the largest oil suppliers to the United States, which is also Venezuela's largest trading partner.
"Venezuela should be included in the ATPA," he said. "Venezuela has been and is a partner to the U.S. … in every aspect of investment and commerce."

Powell to Colombia
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell will travel to Colombia next month to show support for President Andres Pastrana's efforts to combat drug trafficking.
He will "underscore continuing U.S. government support for Colombia's efforts to combat illicit drug trade, to strengthen its democratic institutions and to promote economic and social development," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.
Mr. Powell will visit Colombia Sept. 11 and 12, after attending a meeting of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States Sept. 9 and 10 in Lima, Peru.

Sri Lanka rejects help
Sri Lankan leaders have rejected an American offer to help solve the country's political impasse, dealing an embarrassing blow to U.S. Ambassador Ashley Wills.
Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar on Sunday decided against asking Mr. Wills to mediate a dispute between the government and the main opposition United National Party (UNP).
He said the government had already begun talks with the UNP before the U.S. Embassy last week released a statement, saying Mr. Wills had offered help in working for the formation of a unity government to include the opposition.
The minister in a statement late Sunday said the government's decision to open talks with the UNP was taken "before any message was delivered by a foreign diplomatic representative."
Mr. Kadirgamar said the government will continue to engage the opposition "in discussions relating to the future of the country independent of representations or messages which any foreign government may make or carry."
Diplomatic sources told the Agence France-Presse that the government rejected the U.S. offer after the opposition dismissed the move last week.
"This also puts the U.S. ambassador in a very embarrassing position because now it looks like he was interfering where he was not invited," one source said.
The embassy said Mr. Wills was trying to help resolve the political crisis that began when President Chandrika Kumaratunga suspended parliament in July to avoid losing a no-confidence vote.
"Ambassador Wills was asked by one political party to deliver a message to another. After reflecting on the request, and on consulting Washington, he agreed to do so," the embassy statement said.
The embassy declined to say whether the government or the opposition approached the ambassador.
"Along with many other friends of Sri Lanka, the U.S. has been concerned about Sri Lanka's political uncertainty and its possible impact on the prospects for peace and economic growth in the country."

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