- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

Several key members of Congress, along with U.S. drug officials, are calling for the appointment of retired Colombian National Police Director Gen. Rosso Jose Serrano as the new executive director of the U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.
Concerned that the State Department has not moved aggressively to endorse the appointment, the lawmakers and officials have written to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to solicit support for the Serrano nomination.
"Gen. Serrano's reputation as an international law enforcement officer and unwavering ally of the U.S. government is nothing short of legendary," said Asa Hutchinson, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in a letter Friday to Mr. Powell.
"His relentless pursuit of the Medellin and Cali drug cartels, even in the face of countless threats against his life, personifies the resolve of the Colombian people in their ongoing struggle against the oppression of illegal drugs," he said. "Gen. Serrano's appointment as executive director would be a natural transition and well-deserved capstone of a stellar career in the counterdrug arena."
Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a separate letter to Mr. Powell that Gen. Serrano was a "man of uncommon courage and integrity who has a tremendous record of success battling on the front lines of the war against international narcotics trafficking."
"I strongly urge you to consider promoting Gen. Serrano's candidacy for this important U.N. post," Mr. Helms said. "His credentials are impeccable, his friendship with the U.S. is firm and his dedication to the task at hand is without question."
In a letter to U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte, with copies to President Bush and Mr. Powell, Republican Reps. Benjamin A. Gilman of New York, chairman emeritus of the House Committee on International Relations, and Dan Burton of Indiana, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, also encouraged the Serrano appointment.
"He is a good friend of the United States and a longtime ally in the worldwide fight against illicit drugs and crime," they said. "He is the right man at the right time."
Several other members of Congress, including House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, have offered their support for Gen. Serrano. Drug policy chief John Walters also met with Gen. Serrano in Colombia last month and has conveyed his support of the general to the State Department.
The State Department has not made any public comments concerning the U.N. post.
Recently, Paul V. Kelly, assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the department, told Mr. Gilman in a letter that a number of candidates to replace former Executive Director Pino Arlacchi were "still emerging" and that the department would "carefully consider the qualifications of all the candidates for the position and make our views known to U.N. Secretary-General Annan, who will make the appointment."
Capitol Hill sources said Gen. Serrano is believed to have fallen out of favor with the State Department, although they are not sure why.
"Serrano had been widely regarded as the most logical person to replace Pino Arlacchi as the executive director," said one key congressional source.
The sources noted that the appointment of an aggressive executive director for the United Nations post was critical, particularly in the wake of the war in Afghanistan and continuing concerns that those who produce the opium poppy crop in that country will threaten the viability of any new Afghan government.
Afghanistan has been a major source for the cultivation, processing and trafficking of opiate and cannabis products. It produced more than 70 percent of the world's illicit opium in 2000. Narcotics are the largest source of income in Afghanistan due to the decimation of the country's economy by years of war.


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