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US Urges Colombia Neighbors to Combat Rebels

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is calling on Colombia's neighbors to help stop Colombian guerrillas from cross-border operations in jungle regions of South America. VOA's Brian Wagner has this report from the regional meeting of the Organization of American States in Colombia.

Colombia's government is hoping to use the annual meeting of the 34-nation group to show how its tough security policies have helped curb violence and transform Medellin into a safe and vibrant city. While the nation has stopped the threat from its largest paramilitary group, leftist rebels continue to operate in remote jungle regions.

Officials say a U.S.-backed campaign to fight drug trafficking has pushed back leftist guerrillas, leading them at times to cross into neighboring countries where they set up camps.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said Venezuela is one area being used by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. "As far as the government of Venezuela is concerned, I don't think there is any doubt that FARC have sought sanctuary on Venezuelan soil, across from the territory of Colombia." he said.

Venezuela's government had denied providing any support to leftist guerrillas, and has criticized Colombia for failing to police the border. Officials in both countries say smuggling of illegal drugs as well as contraband food and gasoline across the frontier is a problem.

Negroponte says Colombia's government is making great strides to end terrorist activities of the FARC, but he said it needs more support from its neighbors. "Those who are in a position to do something about that, need to think about their long-term bilateral relationships, and about whether it is in their interest to let that type of situation to continue," he said.

FARC rebels also have been spotted inside Ecuador. Sunday, Ecuador's foreign minister told reporters in Medellin that security forces have destroyed more than 100 rebel camps inside Ecuador in recent years. Quito has criticized Colombia for a cross-border military raid in March which killed a FARC commander.

 

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