- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2003

The United States and Peru plan to resume drug-interdiction flights over Peru by the end of the year, but Peruvian forces initially will not shoot down suspect airplanes.

“Because of the tragedy that happened a while ago, severe rules and procedure rules manuals have been imposed, and we have to approve them jointly,” Prime Minister Beatriz Merino said last week following a meeting in Washington with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

The flights were stopped in 2001 after an American missionary and her daughter were killed when Peruvian forces mistakenly shot down their plane.

U.S. aircraft spotted and tracked the plane and the Peruvians shot it down in a tragedy caused by confusion and miscommunication between the two forces.

With the new program, the Peruvian military is expected to begin to use live fire again only after both countries reach an agreement to set procedures.

Negotiations over the new rules are expected to be completed in early 2004.

Congress is expected to authorize $13 million within the next month for personnel training and other preparations to resume the drug interdiction effort. Peru is to allocate a similar amount.

In her meeting with Mr. Powell, Mrs. Merino also urged the United States to start looking for authorization in Congress to begin negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement.

There have already been three technical meetings between Peruvian and U.S. representatives for that purpose.

“[Mr. Powell] understood our interest. He’s well informed about it and showed interest in pushing this agenda,” she said.

Mrs. Merino said that Peru is working on tax, legal and state reforms to guarantee a transparent and efficient governmental structure.

During the visit to Washington, Mrs. Merino also met with Treasury Secretary John Snow, U.S. drug policy chief John Walters, and officials from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.

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