Pubdate: Thu, 12 Oct 2000
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 2000 Associated Press


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- President Fernando De la Rua has offered 
support for Colombia's drug-fighting efforts, but stopped short of 
endorsing a U.S.-backed military offensive known as Plan Colombia.

Speaking at a joint news conference Thursday with Colombian President 
Andres Pastrana, De la Rua said his government was committed to supporting 
``the forces of peace and reconciliation'' in Colombia.

But he made clear Argentina would not endorse the U.S.-backed anti-drug effort.

``Plan Colombia is an internal issue for Colombia,'' De la Rua told 
reporters. ``Argentina insists in reaffirming its principle of 
nonintervention. But we express our hope in their fight to find peace.''

The anti-drug offensive will be mounted by U.S.-trained Colombian army 
troops, who will be flown into Colombia's coca-growing region aboard 
American-made combat helicopters.

The United States has promised $1.3 billion to the plan, which Pastrana 
said will cost $7.5 billion over four years. Most of the U.S. aid will go 
to providing military hardware and training aimed at combatting armed 
groups that protect plantations producing 90 percent of the world's cocaine.

De la Rua's comments were the latest by a regional leader on the plan.

On Wednesday, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos offered unequivocal support, 
committing his government ``to help in whatever ways the Colombian 
government deems pertinent.''

However, other Latin American leaders have been more critical, fearing it 
could destabilize the region and lead to increased meddling by the United 
States in Latin America.

At a regional summit in Brazil last month, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez 
expressed his fear that the U.S. military presence could increase the 
violence in the region. Brazil echoed such concern.

However, Pastrana presented a confident defense of the Plan, stressing it 
was a homegrown initiative, which would not lead to large-scale U.S. 

``It is not the Clinton Plan,'' Pastrana said. ``It is a Colombian Plan, 
presented by Colombians and developed for Colombians.''

He also stressed that most of the plan's funds are for nonmilitary projects.

``This is an integral plan ... aimed at helping the poorest sections of 
society,'' Pastrana said.

The two presidents also signed commercial, cultural and technical accords, 
including cooperative agreements to combat drug trafficking and money 
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager