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Colombian President-Elect Visits US Ahead of Inauguration

Colombian President-elect Alvaro Uribe met Secretary of State Colin Powell Wednesday as he continued a Washington visit in advance of his inauguration on August 7. U.S. officials have said he is promising to commit more of the Colombian government's own resources in its U.S. supported battle against insurgents and narco-traffickers.

Mr. Uribe won a landslide victory in Colombia's election last month with campaign pledges to get tough in the government's long-running conflict with leftist insurgents and drug gangs. And he is conveying the same message in Washington, where the Bush administration is asking Congress for more money to help the Bogota government.

Speaking briefly after meeting Secretary Powell, Mr. Uribe said they reviewed the problem of violence in Colombia and the efforts his incoming government will make to protect its citizens.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Otto Reich, who appeared with him, said there was no need for the U.S. side to have to ask for a bigger Colombian contribution, because that commitment was volunteered by Mr. Uribe and his team.

"They realize Colombia has to provide more of its own resources. And we're fully in agreement. Just as we're increasing our assistance, it's very important for the Colombian people to show, and the Colombian government [to show], that they're fully aware of the fact that they need more resources to combat the very well-financed narco-terrorist network they're fighting," Mr. Reich said.

Mr. Reich, who visited Bogota earlier this month, said the President-elect has committed to increasing the size of both the Colombian military and the police.

The Bush administration is asking Congress for about $400 million in aid for Colombia for the coming year on top of more than $1 billion already provided since 2000.

It is also asking for Congressional authority to have U.S. aid money previously limited to counter-narcotics efforts, to also be used in the Colombian government's campaign against the insurgents and far-right paramilitaries.

The two main insurgent groups, FARC and ELN, along with the paramilitary group the AUC are on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.

President-elect Uribe went from the State Department to meetings with Congressional leaders on the aid issue and he has also met in Washington with officials of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in a quest for more loans for Colombian anti-poverty programs.