HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html U.S. Expected To Ok Resumption Of Anti-Drug Flights In Colombia
Pubdate: Wed,  6 Aug 2003
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2003 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Christopher Marquis, New York Times
Bookmark: (Colombia)


WASHINGTON - President Bush is expected to approve the resumption of
anti-drug surveillance flights in Colombia that result in the forcible
grounding or destruction of planes suspected of smuggling narcotics,
officials said Tuesday.

This so called shoot-down policy in Colombia and Peru was suspended
two years ago after a small plane flying over Peru was identified as
suspicious and later shot down. An American missionary, Veronica
Bowers, and her infant daughter, Charity, were killed in the crash.

An inquiry by U.S. and Peruvian officials found that a disastrous
series of mistakes, aggravated by language problems and procedural
shortcuts, had caused the incident. Since then the Bush
administration, which provides intelligence to those tracking the
flights, has negotiated with Peru and Colombia to impose safeguards.

Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe Vélez, has been especially
aggressive in seeking to resume the program, which is intended to
weaken the traffickers' ``air bridge'' from coca-growing areas in Peru
and Colombia to the United States.

Colombian officials expressed the hope Tuesday that Bush would
reauthorize the policy in time to mark Uribe's first anniversary in
office Thursday. Negotiations with Peru have moved more slowly.

The White House on Tuesday declined to say when Bush would act.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has recommended restarting the
program, which in its seven years had considerable success in
disrupting traffickers' routes, officials said.

``We are in the final stages of review and evaluation,'' said Scott
McClellan, the White House press secretary. ``The president's
overriding concern is to support our allies in Colombia to address
the threat to their national security posed by illegal drug
trafficking, while ensuring that procedures are in place to protect
innocent life.''
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin