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Uribe: No Support Given to Marxist Rebels or Paramilitaries - 2002-09-24

The president of Colombia is in Washington for talks with President Bush and members of Congress on ways to end his country's civil war and put its notorious drug cartels out of business.

President Alvaro Uribe, who is scheduled to meet President Bush Wednesday at the White House, came to Washington using the same tough rhetoric that made him popular among war-weary Colombians and propelled him into the highest office in this year's election.

In a speech Tuesday to the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading private research institute, Mr. Uribe promised his administration will give no quarter in the war on marxist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries that have kept his country at war for almost 40 years.

He also said his administration will do all it can to end Colombia's role as the world's largest producer and distributor of cocaine.

One of the main elements of his anti-drug effort is a plan, partly financed by the United States, to eradicate Colombia's coca plants and to encourage coca farmers to switch to other crops.

Mr. Uribe, a tough-talking former governor, won the election after the failure of efforts by his predecessor, Andres Pastrana, to end the war through dialogue. He is still popular among Colombians, but critics say his all-out war on the rebels has endangered civil liberties.

The White House, thus far, has warmly embraced Mr. Uribe and promised its support. And perhaps, just perhaps, the tough strategy of the two allies is beginning to show results.

As President Uribe made the rounds and met Congressional leaders Tuesday in Washington, Colombia's right-wing paramilitary leader, Carlos Castano, announced he will fly to the United States to face charges of drug smuggling there.

The announcement came less than an hour after U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft formally requested Mr. Castano's extradition.