US-Colombia base deal could include others: Uribe

A controversial deal that lets the US military use Colombian bases could be extended to other countries, President Alvaro Uribe said in remarks broadcast Saturday.

"For this agreement to combat drug trafficking and terrorism, we are prepared to act with the United States and all other countries that will join us," Uribe, a conservative and a close US ally, said earlier in the week at a public event. The remarks were re-broadcast on Saturday.

Bogota has previously expressed its willingness to negotiate military cooperation agreements with Brazil and Peru.

The deal negotiated earlier this month, which grants the United States access to seven Colombian bases, has riled other Latin American nations, especially neighboring Venezuela and Ecuador, which have expressed fears the bases may be used to stage an invasion of their countries.

A preliminary accord was struck last week and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she expected the bases agreement to be signed shortly.

An extraordinary summit of Unasur -- the South America forum grouping Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guayana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela -- is to take place on Friday in Argentina to specifically address the region's concern over the bases.

Last March, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos refined the terms of cooperation agreements with Brazil and Peru on border security issues linked to guerillas and drug traffickers.

Those deals provided for the purchase of warplanes and other arms from Brazil, which has become a major military supplier to Colombia.

[Source: AFP, Bogota, 23Aug09]

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