l.a times

U.S., Colombia work on deal for air bases

Jul 16--The Pentagon has to find a new site for anti-drug flight operations after Ecuador declined to extend the lease at Manta.

The United States and Colombia are poised to sign an agreement to transfer anti-drug flight operations from Ecuador to at least three Colombian air bases, a move that has drawn criticism here that it will leave the country even more dependent on Washington. Although the deal is not yet nailed down, Colombia's defense, interior and foreign ministers held a public forum in Bogota, the capital, on Wednesday to discuss details of the plan.

"We are deepening cooperation agreements that already exist in our common struggle against narco-trafficking and terrorism," said Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez, who framed the accord as a means of making the war on drugs more "efficient and stronger."
U.S. Embassy officials declined to comment, but a source who asked not to be named, citing the sensitivity of the issue, said the agreement could be ready by mid-August. Colombia annually receives more than $500 million in mostly military aid under Plan Colombia, the U.S. program to combat terrorism and drugs
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