February 24, 2003

Colombian politicians criticize U.S.

'Colombia is not Afghanistan, it is not Iraq'

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) --Colombian politicians on Sunday accused Washington of
meddling in their country's affairs for sending more U.S. troops to search for three
Americans held hostage by rebels.

U.S. officials have been assisting the investigation and Pentagon officials
announced Saturday that President Bush ordered another 150 U.S. soldiers to
Colombia to help in the search.

On Sunday, Defense Dept. spokesperson Lt. Col. Gary Keck said that number
was incorrect, adding, "We are not discussing numbers at this time."

Some Colombians said the decision to send additional U.S. troops was

Colombian congressman Gustavo Petro, a former leftist rebel, warned against
further U.S. involvement in Colombia's 38-year civil war. Some 260 U.S.
special forces troops already are in Colombia training government troops to
fight the rebels.

"Colombia is not Afghanistan, it is not Iraq," Petro told Radionet. "With the
type of violent conflict we're living here, what the United States is going to get
tangled up in is a new Vietnam."

The three captive Americans were aboard a U.S. government plane flying an
intelligence mission when it crashed in rebel territory February 13. Members of
the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have
acknowledged they are holding the Americans hostage.

A fourth American and a Colombian army sergeant were shot and killed at the

Petro said FARC members undoubtedly are content with Bush's decision to
send more American troops to the region.

"This is precisely what they wanted," Petro said. "Now they can transform their
senseless war into some sort of patriotic war."

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.