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DATE=10/8/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=COLOMBIA DRUGS (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-254824 BYLINE=JON TKACH DATELINE=WASHINGTON INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: High ranking Colombian defense officials are wrapping up a visit to Washington, urging U-S leaders to increase aid to help the South American country fight drug trafficking. Lawmakers are considering pledging up to one-and-a-half-billion dollars over the next three years. Colombian officials say they need the help as soon as possible because the production of coca - the plant from which cocaine is made - is on the rise in rebel territories. V-O-A's Jon Tkach (kotch) reports. TEXT: Colombia's defense minister, Luis Fernando Ramirez, says his country now faces a different kind of drug war. Colombian drug traders, he says, are keeping a lower profile - operating out of the jungle in areas often controlled by rebel forces. Minister Ramirez says Colombia needs, and deserves, extensive international help. He wants three-and-a-half-billion dollars in aid - and more than a third of that from the United States. U-S lawmakers have been debating what the United States' role should be. Reports from the State Department and independent organizations have cited extensive human rights abuses by Colombia's army. Also, many lawmakers worry that U-S aid could go to fighting the government's war against insurgents. Mr. Ramirez says his country's forces have improved significantly in the area of human rights. But, he says, leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups often get in the way of the war on drugs. /// RAMIREZ ACT /// Our goal is to fight narco-traffickers and we will need to fight others with different names if they are in the middle of this business of narco-trafficking. /// END ACT /// Adam Isacson of the Washington-based Center for International Policy says his group is opposed to current plans for assistance. He says Colombia's security forces have yet to truly reform and that Washington's response is overly focused on beefing up Columbia militarily. /// ISACSON ACT /// And there is a peace process and the guerrillas have gone on record saying they want peace and this new infusion of aid may kill that. /// END ACT /// The Colombian delegation is searching for help with a seven-and-a-half billion dollar, three year plan they say will combat the drug trade and move along the country's flagging peace process. NEB/JON/JP 08-Oct-1999 15:59 PM EDT (08-Oct-1999 1959 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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