The Miami Herald
Wed, Mar. 24, 2004
Presidents stress war on drugs

From Herald Wire Services

WASHINGTON - Amid early signs of success, President Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Tuesday discussed the need for intensifying the war against narco-terrorists in the South American country.

''I have found in President Bush a huge level of understanding that we cannot leave this fight half way,'' Uribe said after the session between the two leaders, their third meeting in less than two years.

Uribe came to Washington to press the United States for a four-year extension to Plan Colombia, which is aimed at eradicating drug trafficking.

Bush commended Uribe for his efforts in standing against terrorism and combating drug trafficking, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. The two also discussed their shared commitment to expanding trade with upcoming talks on a free-trade agreement between Colombia and the United States.

The trade talks will begin around May 19, according to Uribe, who met Bush and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

Zoellick told a press conference with Uribe that he hoped the Free Trade Accord negotiations can be concluded by 2005. He added that Peru and Ecuador could join the talks.

Uribe, who took office in August 2002, is a staunch U.S. ally whose country was the only one in South America to join Bush's coalition in Iraq.