- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

CARTAGENA, Colombia This country is "studying" a Bush administration request to back immunity for its troops before the International Criminal Court, according to President Alvaro Uribe, who also says he would like more European anti-drug aid.
"Colombia must examine all the issues" surrounding the ICC, Mr. Uribe said in an exclusive interview Sunday with Agence France-Presse. "The Foreign Ministry is studying the issue, and we will make a decision," the Colombian president said, but he is not in concert with other Latin American countries.
Mr. Uribe, who took office Aug. 17, spoke with AFP in this Caribbean city, where he met with Colombia's association of manufacturers.
U.S. officials have asked allies to sign on to a waiver so that U.S. troops cannot be tried before the court.
Under the American Service Members Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush this month, Washington could withhold military aid from ICC member countries that do not sign bilateral exceptions for U.S. troops.
Colombia is the third-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, after Israel and Egypt. The aid is intended to help Colombia suppress a four-decade-old civil war that has killed 200,000 of its people.
The war pits government forces against rightist paramilitary squads and Marxist guerrillas. Both guerrillas and paramilitary forces receive money from trafficking drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, which are extracted from crops grown in Colombia.
"I hope for a lot of help from Europe because the conflict is financed by an international business that is drug trafficking, fought with arms manufactured outside, and the violence is affecting this democracy and the population," Mr. Uribe said.
"All democratic countries can help. I hope for a lot of help of a special sort that I am going to talk about today help to finance payment to growers of the drug so that they may substitute drugs for trees. The cost? The country must find $400 million year after year, find out how much Europe can help us."

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