US gives assurances on Bogota pact

Clinton says military deal is to tackle drug traffickers, not establish US bases.

    Colombia has drawn flak from its neighbours for allowing the US to use its military bases [AFP]

    The chief US diplomat added that any US military activity will "have to be mutually agreed upon in advance" and there will be "no significant permanent increase in the US military presence in Colombia".

    "What Colombia needs is more effective mechanisms of co-operation… it would be extremely good to have more agreements, not just with the United States, but with other states in the same vein"

    Jaime Bermudez, Colombia foreign minister

    Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, has been vocally critical of the planned pact to allow more US troops to operate in Colombia and use seven military bases in the country.

    Accusing the US of seeking control of Venezuela's huge oil reserves as well as the Amazon region, Chavez has vowed to "respond militarily and decisively if the pro-war forces in Colombia, egged on by the United States, dare to launch aggression against Venezuela".

    And he has cut trade with Bogota in response to the proposed pact.

    But Jaime Bermudez, the Colombian foreign minister, said the deal would be based on "the principle of sovereign equality of states, the principle of non-intervention, and the principle of the territorial integrity of states".

    Speaking alongside Clinton, Bermudez echoed his counterpart's explanation that the military deal was to fight drug traffickers and guerrillas involved in the Colombian cocaine trade.

    "What Colombia needs is more effective mechanisms of co-operation… And I think it would be extremely good to have more agreements, not just with the United States, but with other states in the same vein," Bermudez said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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