Colombian FM to stay despite brother's arrest: president

The Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Consuelo Araujo will remain in office despite her brother's arrest for having alleged links with a paramilitary group, President Alvaro Uribe said on Saturday.

"When they ask, why do I keep the foreign minister, I answer: She is not involved in the criminal activities that are under investigation," Uribe said.

The president added that he was well aware of the difficulties the arrest presents to Araujo.

On Thursday, Colombia's Supreme Court ordered the arrest of five legislators, including Araujo's brother, Senator Alvaro Araujo, who were under investigation for having alleged links with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary group in the country.

Prosecutors were also requested to investigate Araujo's father, a former agriculture minister and governor of Cesar state, for his role in a kidnapping by the AUC.

In July 2004, links between politicians from Colombia's ruling coalition and the AUC came to light as a result of a peace process that dismantled the 31,000-strong paramilitary group.

A former paramilitary chief has told judges that some politicians and army officers provided covert support for the group in exchange for large sums of money.

Several senior military officers have been fired in what has become known in Colombia as the "parapolitical scandal."

[Source: Xinhua News Agency, Chn, 18Feb07]

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