Tuesday, June 23, 1998 Published at 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
US sees new era in relations with Colombia
Hopes in Colombia that the new president will signal a new era
The United States says it hopes the election of Andres Pastrana as the next president of Colombia can lead to a new chapter in relations between the two countries.
The US State Department spokesman, James Rubin, offered warm congratulations to the Conservative Mr Pastrana.
He said the United States was seeking to arrange a meeting with him as soon as he takes office in August, to discuss what he termed as co-operation and assistance.
Request to US for help with war on drugs
He said he had received assurances from the rebels that they will eradicate drug crops in areas under their control and pledged to meet with their leaders maybe as early as next week.
Correspondents say Mr Pastrana faces a difficult term.
Under President Samper, unemployment doubled and the country's economic growth almost halved.
These factors, combined with scandals, are thought to have driven many voters to switch from the Liberal party, which has governed for 12 years, to Mr Pastrana's Conservatives.
Over the past few weeks Colombia's currency, the peso, has been hit by a wave of speculative attacks.
Its sharp fall in value against the US dollar has led to massive Central Bank intervention. Local stock markets have also fallen to 17-month lows.
In a speech immediately after his victory, he said: "I receive the country with its finances in a disastrous state. One of the most urgent priorities of my government, therefore, will be to restore confidence among economic agents and put the budget house in order.
"We're going to propose to the country, Congress and the international financial community a serious and vigorous fiscal adjustment programme which we will carry out promptly."
Long Liberal rule ends
The Liberals were harmed by allegations that they received millions of dollars from drugs barons but the party retains its hold on Congress.
Mr Pastrana, who was supported by many business people, won just over 50% of the vote, compared with 46.5% for his rival.