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Bush to Meet Colombian President - 2002-04-18

President Bush meets Thursday at the White House with Colombian President Andres Pastrana. They will discuss the future of U.S. aid to Colombia.

President Pastrana wants to use U.S. military aid to help his government fight rebel forces in Colombia.

Current American law only permits assistance to anti-drug efforts. But the Bush administration is urging Congress to lift the restrictions.

The idea got a strong show of support Wednesday from the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Dennis Hastert said he wants the law changed to allow the Colombian government to battle insurgents as well as drug traffickers. Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle also indicated his approval.

The restrictions were originally imposed by congress to keep the United States from becoming involved in a wider conflict. But the Bush White House maintains that the insurgents are both drug traffickers and terrorists who threaten not just the stability of Colombia, but all of South America and the United States as well.

Peace talks between the Pastrana government and the main rebel group the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC broke down in February. Since then, rebel attacks have increased throughout the country.