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Colombia's Uribe On Trip To Defend US Bases Pact

Aug 05--Colombian President Uribe On Whirlwind Trip Through Region To Defend US Bases Pact

5 de agosto de 2009

President Alvaro Uribe headed off on a whirlwind South American tour Tuesday to defend his plans to expand the U.S. military's presence in Colombia, a prospect that worries even friendly nations in the region.

The trip coincides with a two-day visit to Brazil of U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones, who met Tuesday with defense officials and with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's foreign affairs adviser.

Silva said last week that "I don't like the idea of an American military base in Colombia."

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet said Colombia's decision to host more U.S. forces "affects all the (region's) countries, and they are uneasy."

Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, told the Folha de San Paulo newspaper over the weekend that he understands "the bases will allow for aircraft operations with a wide radius of action" and said his country is worried about "a strong military presence whose objective and capacity to go a lot further than Colombia's internal needs."

Colombian officials say they hope talks next week will produce an agreement that will give U.S. forces greater access to three Colombian air bases and two naval bases. The Palanquero base in the central Magdalena valley would host U.S. Air Force counternarcotics missions that had been based in Ecuador.
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