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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Colombian warlord 'ready to surrender'
Colombian soldier (l) escorts AUC suspects
Colombia is cracking down on suspected paramilitaries

Colombia's right-wing paramilitary warlord, Carlos Castano, has said he will deliver himself to US justice and stand trial on charges of drugs trafficking.

Carlos Castano
Castano: Says he is innocent of all drug-smuggling charges
The move comes after the US indicted the head of the 10,000-strong paramilitary army, the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), accusing Mr Castano and two other top paramilitaries of smuggling 17 tonnes of cocaine to the US and Europe.

In an extraordinary interview conducted by satellite telephone, Mr Castano, probably Colombia's most feared man, said he was making arrangements to deliver himself to the US to face the charges.

To avoid the signal from the 35 minute interview being tracked, Castano was constantly on the move, in vehicles and on horseback throughout the conversation.

Battery of charges

He said he would surrender himself to the US authorities as he trusted US justice and knew he was innocent of any drug smuggling charges.

His lawyer, Joaquin Perez, has flown to Washington to negotiate terms for the surrender, and it is here that the stumbling blocks may appear.

In Colombia Mr Castano faces a battery of charges, many for murder.

He has said he will submit himself to trial only in the US on drugs trafficking counts and he will not allow himself to be deported back to Colombia to face 26 outstanding arrest warrants.

He has also been sentenced by Colombian authorities in absentia to serve 22 years in prison.

The US indictment comes as Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is in Washington meeting US President George W Bush to ask for further aid in his plan to establish democratic authority in this battered nation, particularly the half dominated by Marxist guerrillas and Mr Castano's AUC.


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24 Sep 02 | Americas
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