- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

More Colombian aid

Colombia’s next ambassador to the United States says he will seek more aid from Washington to help his country fight terrorism and drug trafficking.

Andres Pastrana, the former president of the Andean nation, told the Associated Press that his government needs to increase the aid he secured from the United States under Plan Colombia, which he negotiated in 2000. The aid package provided $4 billion to help eradicate the heroin and cocaine crop and fight the communist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC.

“Terrorism around the world is financed by drugs,” Mr. Pastrana said in an interview this week.

He said Plan Colombia has been “very successful” but added: “We need more money.”

As president from 1998 to 2002, Mr. Pastrana pursued peace talks with FARC and even granted the rebels control over a portion of the country the size of Switzerland in an effort to encourage them to abandon an insurgency more than 40 years old.

FARC repeatedly broke cease-fire pacts and consolidated control over lucrative drug-smuggling operations. The rebels also kidnapped and killed political leaders.

Mr. Pastrana, who has been a critic of the current president, Alvaro Uribe, told the Associated Press that he still will oppose Mr. Uribe’s efforts to change the constitution, which limits presidents to one term in office.

Mr. Pastrana, who is expected to take up his post here in October, will replace Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno, who was elected last week as president of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Mr. Moreno told bank officials that he will work to eliminate poverty and encourage economic development.

“I sincerely believe that our hemisphere is at the doorway of an extraordinary dialogue for the future,” he said.

“There are diverse interests in all countries — as is natural according to their stage of development, culture and past — but if there is one thing that economic history teaches us, it is that since the Industrial Revolution, the economy no longer has to be a zero-sum game where some win and others lose.”

He added that the 21st century holds the promise of a “great alliance for the development of our region.”

“The bank,” he said, “can be the platform for such dialogue.”

No hard feelings

The United States holds no grudges against Uzbekistan even though the Central Asian nation ordered Washington to remove troops from a base that was key to U.S. efforts in neighboring Afghanistan, a top U.S. diplomat said this week.

“We will certainly continue to work with Uzbekistan, and we will continue to try to be a helpful partner in the war on terrorism,” R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov canceled the base agreement after the United States criticized his government for a crackdown on dissidents in the city of Andijan. Human rights advocates say government forces killed more than 750 civilians, while the government insists the number is closer to 200 and those killed were armed insurgents.

Mr. Burns said Washington was not surprised by Mr. Karimov’s decision to cancel the agreement, which was reached in 2000 after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“We did see an indication that this would occur. We knew it would occur, and we have balanced our view of our relations with Uzbekistan,” he said.

“Of course, access to the base was useful to us, but on the other hand, the United States felt it was very important we speak out clearly on behalf of those who were victims,” said Mr. Burns, who canceled a trip to Uzbekistan after the base closure was announced.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have offered the United States help to fill the gap.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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