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Colombia and US sign bases deal

30 October 09 13:24 GMT

The United States and Colombia have signed a deal giving the US military access to seven Colombian bases.

Both the US and Colombia have previously stressed their aim is to use the bases to combat drug trafficking and rebels.

The prospect of the deal had caused alarm among some of Colombia's neighbours, who object to an increased US military presence.

Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela have all recently expressed concern.

In a statement, Colombia's foreign ministry said the agreement was "based on the principles of total respect for sovereign equality, territorial integrity and not intervening in the internal affairs of other states", reported Reuters news agency.

'Security'

On Tuesday Colombian Defence Minister Gabriel Silva insisted the agreement did not constitute a major new development but simply a continuation of US-Colombian co-operation.

He said it was supported by the majority of Colombians who, he said, wanted more security.

"The agreement has no geopolitical or strategic connotation, other than being more effective in the fight against drug trafficking," he said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's claims that the accord could destabilise the region have been dismissed by the US and Colombia.

They say there will be a cap on how many American military personnel and contractors will be allowed in the country.

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