June 30, 2002

Clinton backs more military aid for Colombia

                 CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) -- Former U.S. President Clinton said Saturday
                 that he backs broadening military aid from Washington to battle insurgents
                 in Colombia.

                 At a conference on how the private sector can help resolve the nation's 38-year
                 conflict, Clinton described Colombia as a crucial "battleground in humanity's war
                 against terror."

                 He made the comments in this steamy Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena as
                 Congress considers lifting restrictions on U.S. counterdrug money to fight
                 insurgent groups in Colombia. Clinton pushed through $1.7 billion in drug-fighting
                 aid during his presidency.

                 The conflict sets two main rebel groups against a right-wing paramilitary army and
                 the government. The U.S. State Department has placed all three illegal groups on its
                 list of terrorist organizations.

                 Clinton said Colombia's government should be allowed to use U.S. aid "not only
                 against drug trafficking, but in a direct confrontation against those terrorist

                 After the conference, President Andres Pastrana accompanied Clinton on a walk
                 through the walled colonial city that the former president visited once before in
                 2000. Enthusiastic crowds shook Clinton's hand and posed with him for pictures.

                 Rep. William Delahunt, D-Massachusetts, who also attended, called on Colombians
                 to show they're willing to make sacrifices to end the war.

                 "I believe Congress will be reluctant to increase our share of the assistance until it is
                 demonstrated that the private sector is willing to bear much of the sacrifice for this
                 very tragic conflict," Delahunt said.

                 Addressing the conference earlier Saturday, President-elect Alvaro Uribe -- who
                 begins his term August 7 -- urged private security firms to help the government
                 monitor insurgents and said he would propose a war tax on private businesses.

                 Thousands of trained police and military personnel swarmed over Cartagena during
                 Clinton's visit. Authorities sent helicopter gunships, airplanes and boats to patrol the
                 air and waters around the walled city.

                 Clinton also criticized rebel threats to kidnap or kill more than 100 mayors and
                 hundreds of other government employees if they don't resign.

                 The threats this month have paralyzed municipal governments. Pastrana has
                 responded by offering the threatened city officials protection through a program
                 funded by the United States as part of the aid package that Clinton pushed through.

                  Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.