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Wednesday, 27 December, 2000, 08:25 GMT
US Colombia policy under fire
Colombian troops with captured rebel
The Colombian army is accused of human rights violations
By Iain Haddow in Miami

A leading US senator has called on President-elect George W Bush to revise foreign policy towards Colombia.

Senator Paul Wellstone cited concern over human rights abuses perpetrated by elements within the Colombian armed forces.

Last month, Senator Wellstone travelled to Colombia to learn more about the civil conflict. He evidently did not like what he saw.

Writing in the New York Times, Senator Wellstone, a Democrat from Minnesota, said he did not believe the US should be funding military aid to Colombia when, as he put it, many members of the armed forces continued to collaborate with right-wing paramilitaries.

Snub to Clinton

Mr Wellstone is not the first to voice such fears.

There is growing concern, mainly among the more liberal members of Congress, that the US is funding an army whose soldiers are accused of gross human rights violations.

Mr Wellstone said the paramilitaries were responsible for most of the hundreds of civilian massacres which take place in Colombia every year.

Human rights conditions

In future, the senator said US aid should be made conditional on guarantees that the links between the army and the paramilitaries were being cut.

It is the strongest criticism yet of US aid to Colombia, which is being directed at the fight against illegal drugs.

But it is also a personal slight to President Clinton, who waived human rights conditions earlier this year in order to release federal funding for the Plan Colombia aid package.

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See also:

25 Dec 00 | Americas
Colombia announces progress on peace
21 Dec 00 | Americas
Officers charged with massacre
06 Dec 00 | Americas
More Colombians flee violence
16 Nov 00 | Americas
Colombia's peace laboratory
06 Sep 00 | Talking Point
Should the US stay out of Colombia?
31 Aug 00 | Americas
US commits to Colombia
07 Jun 00 | Americas
Colombia overture to rebels
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