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Colombian President Denies Links to Far-Right Militias

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has again denied allegations that he supported right-wing militias, after former U.S. Vice President Al Gore withdrew from a joint appearance in response to the accusations.

Mr. Uribe told reporters in the southern U.S. city of Miami Friday that he has never had links to Colombia's paramilitaries, which are blamed for massacres, land grabs and drug trafficking.

He said he deplores Gore's decision to cancel an appearance at the conference Friday where the two were scheduled to speak.

A spokeswoman for Gore said the former vice president did not want to appear with Mr. Uribe because of what she called "deeply troubling" allegations.

Earlier this week, a leading U.S. lawmaker suspended 55 million dollars in military aid to Colombia due to concerns about a scandal linking Colombian politicians to paramilitary fighters.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, placed a temporary hold on the aid. He was acting as the chairman of the Senate's State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee. Leahy's spokesman (David Carle) said the money is on hold pending a discussion with the U.S. State Department.

Colombia's Supreme Court is investigating several political allies of Mr. Uribe who are suspected of having links to the militias. The court expanded the investigation to include three more pro-government lawmakers, including House of Representatives President Alfredo Cuello.

Also this week, a Colombian opposition senator accused Mr. Uribe of helping the rise of the militias in the 1990s.

Senator Gustavo Petro told a congressional debate Tuesday that Mr. Uribe supported anti-crime groups that evolved into death squads. He said this occurred when the president was governor of Antioquia state, from 1995 to 1997.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.