By GEORGE GEDDA
WASHINGTON -- President Clinton and Colombian President Andres Pastrana
signed a joint agreement Wednesday committing their nations to cooperate in
combating drug trafficking and consumption.
``The fight against drugs is our joint responsibility,'' Clinton said at
a Rose Garden
news conference. ``It must unite us, not divide us.''
Pastrana hailed the renewed cooperation between the United States and
Colombia, not only on anti-drug trafficking efforts, but also on the environment,
education and economics.
``United, there is much we can achieve,'' Pastrana said.
During a joint news conference, Clinton said they also agreed to use proceeds
from assets seized from drug traffickers to bolster Colombian counternarcotics
In addition, he said the United States will provide $280 million in new
Colombia for the fight against drugs as well as for economic development.
Earlier, Pastrana opened his state visit by promising to seek a ``renewed
partnership'' with the United States and to work toward creation of a drug-free
Pastrana said he will ``act now to achieve the dreams of peace, to end
the fear and
the killing and the corruption, and begin a new era of social and economic justice.''
During the South Lawn news conference, Clinton praised Pastrana for his
``courage and determination'' in efforts to end Colombia's three-decades-old civil
``As you embark on your mission to build an honorable and enduring peace,
on the United States as a friend and partner. Count on us, too, as you work to
bring prosperity to all Colombians,'' Clinton said.
Clinton called on leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups
to respond to
Pastrana's ``bold initiative for peace by ending terrorism, hostage-taking and
support for drug traffickers.''
The ceremony, darkened by gray skies, featured a 21-gun salute and full
honors for Pastrana, who took office less than three months ago.
U.S.-Colombian relations were strained during the four-year tenure of Pastrana's
predecessor, President Ernesto Samper, who was suspected of ties to Colombian
Alluding indirectly to that trying period, Pastrana said, ``I come here
a new era of relations between Colombia and the United States.''
Pastrana had indicated beforehand that he did not wish his visit to become
summit but he dealt with that issue forcefully during the arrival ceremony.
He said narcotics traffickers will be ceded no territory or sanctuary under
presidency. But, suggesting that he gives first priority to reaching a peace
agreement with them, he said, ``The only peace treaty acceptable to me and the
Colombian nation is one that strengthens our ability to rid Colombia of cocaine
Clinton said, ``We will work together to combat illegal drugs. We have
together, but we must do more -- for both our peoples have suffered greatly from
the drug trade and its brutality.
``The battle against drugs is a common battle,'' Clinton said. ``It must
people, not divide them.''
Beside his meetings with U.S. officials, Pastrana has appointments with
officials at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.
Colombia is the world's leading source of cocaine, and that issue is high
agenda for U.S. officials as Pastrana makes the rounds in Washington over the
next three days. American officials are expected to ask him about a fungus being
tested by U.S. scientists that is touted by advocates as an environmentally safe
way to eradicate narcotics plants.
They see it as potentially a major breakthrough in the war on drugs. They
acknowledge that Colombia will show little interest unless viable alternatives can
be found for the country's coca farmers.
Colombia is one of the hemisphere's most deeply troubled countries. More
million Colombians have been driven from their homes as a result of a conflict that
involves the armed forces, leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald