- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

The Bush administration said yesterday it would ask Congress to expand military aid for Colombia to help the South American country battle Marxist guerrillas. Current U.S. assistance is limited to drug-fighting efforts.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in testimony on Capitol Hill, said the administration is reviewing U.S. policy, which restricts the use of aid to Colombia's campaign against the production and trafficking of narcotics.
"It may be necessary for us to give the government of Colombia additional support that is outside the counternarcotics basket, in order that they are able to deal with this threat to their survival as a nation, this threat to their economic well-being," Mr. Powell said.
"Colombia is fighting for its democracy, it's fighting for its right to have a legitimate, democratic form of government," he told the commerce, justice, state and the judiciary subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
Hours after the secretary's statement, the full House approved a resolution calling on President Bush to help Colombia "protect its democracy from U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations and the scourge of illicit narcotics."
Late last month, two days after Colombian President Andres Pastrana officially ended the three-year peace process on Feb. 20, the State Department said Washington would share intelligence with Bogota and speed up delivery of military spare parts for an all-out offensive against the rebels.
But Bush administration officials ruled out a combat role for U.S. forces and said it would not allow American soldiers in Colombia to provide training, or to accompany local troops on their missions.
In their attacks on the rebels, Colombian government forces have relied on U.S.-made Black Hawk helicopters, which were to be used only against drug traffickers. But both Washington and Bogota maintain that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are deeply implicated in the cocaine trade.
Washington has spent more than $1 billion in the past year backing Mr. Pastrana's fight against drug trafficking and the rebels who profit from it. Last month, the administration said it wanted $98 million to train and equip Colombian soldiers to protect an oil pipeline that has been repeatedly hit by rebels.
Mr. Powell said yesterday that Mr. Bush had not made any decisions on what changes to seek in the current legislation, but noted that "once we have completed this review we will talk to Congress and ask for whatever we believe is necessary."


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