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US troops help keep Colombia safe from rebels, says Uribe

Jul 22--Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has defended a plan, criticised by regional leftist leaders, to allow more US troops in the country.

He says aid from Washington was helping Colombia beat Marxist rebels.

Uribe is negotiating a deal with the US to increase antidrug operations in the country.

The talks follow Ecuador’s decision to end a programme in which Washington used an air base there for antidrug flights.

“The plan is to strengthen Colombian military bases, not to open American bases in Colombia,” Uribe said on Monday.

“The accord is meant to help Colombians regain their right to live in peace.”

South American drug cartels are blamed for the rise of drug trafficking in west Africa, which is used as a transit route to Europe.

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