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| 7/21/2009 12:00:00 AM

Colombia backs plan for increasing U.S. military aid

Jul 21--Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Monday defended a plan, criticized by regional leftist leaders, to allow more U.S. troops in the country, saying that aid from Washington is helping Colombia beat Marxist rebels.

Uribe is negotiating a deal with the United States to increase anti-narcotics operations in the country. The talks follow Ecuador's decision to end a program in which Washington used an air base there for anti-drug flights.

"The plan is to strengthen Colombian military bases, not to open American bases in Colombia," Uribe said. "The accord is meant to help Colombians regain their right to live in peace."

Uribe is popular for his U.S.-backed crackdown on leftist guerrillas who have been fighting the state for 45 years and are mainly funded by Colombia's thriving cocaine trade.

"The terrorists must be put on notice that they cannot trick us with false nationalism," Uribe added in an apparent jab at leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales, who says that allowing U.S. bases in South America is a form of "treason."
 
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