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US Secretary of State to Visit Colombia, Push for Free Trade Deal


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Colombia, beginning Thursday, in an effort to boost support for a free trade agreement with the South American nation.

Rice is leading a delegation of 10 U.S. House Democrats to Medellin, Colombia's second-largest city, for a two-day visit. The State Department says Rice is to meet with government officials and union leaders.

The Bush administration says the free trade pact would eliminate virtually all tariffs between the United States and Colombia and would help boost the Colombian economy.

But the proposal has faced strong opposition from congressional Democrats and labor and human rights groups who have called for greater progress in human rights in Colombia.

Colombia is battling a decades-long civil war and has the world's worst toll of violence against trade unionists.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.