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Colombia Joins U.S. In Drug War

President Clinton and Colombian President Andres Pastrana signed a joint agreement Wednesday committing their nations to unite against drug trafficking and consumption.
"The fight against drugs is our joint responsibility," Mr. Clinton said at a Rose Garden news conference. "It must unite us, not divide us."

Pastrana hailed the renewed cooperation between the United States and Colombia, not only on anti-drug trafficking efforts, but also on the environment, education, and economics.

"United, there is much we can achieve," Pastrana said.

President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted Pastrana and his wife at a White House state dinner Wednesday night. Salsa sensation Marc Anthony wowed the White House with his hip-gyrating Latin rhythms, even if he couldn't quite the coax the head-bobbing Clintons onto the dance floor alongside Pastrana and his wife, Nohra.

But with the two presidents' encouragement, the rest of the guests shifted into high gear after the Clintons and Pastranas made an early exit following Wednesday night's state dinner.

Mr. Clinton told reporters that the two leaders also agreed to use proceeds from assets forfeited by drug traffickers to bolster Colombia counter-narcotics enforcement efforts.

In addition, the president said the United States will provide $280 million in new assistance to Colombia for the fight against drugs as well as for economic development.

Earlier in the day, Pastrana was given a warm welcome by President Clinton during a White House ceremony. Pastrana opened his state visit by promising to seek a "renewed partnership" with the U.S., and to work towards creating a drug-free hemisphere.

U.S.-Colombian relations were strained during the four-year tenure of Pastrana's predecessor, President Ernesto Samper, who was suspected of ties to Colombian narcotraffickers.

The ceremony, darkened by gray skies, featured a 21-gun salute and full military honors for Pastrana, who took office less than three months ago.

"Now that the day of change has come to Colombia, I come here to inaugurate relations between Colombia and the United States an alliance for free trade, an alliance against drugs, an alliance of hope and high purpose as we enter the 21st century," Pastrana said.

Pastrana vowed to "act now to achieve the dreams of peace to end the fear and the killing and the corruption and begin a new era of social and economic justice."

President Clinton praised Pastrana for his "courage and determination" in efforts to end Colombia's three-decades-old civil war.

"As you embark on your mission to build an honorable and enduring peace, count on the United States as a friend and partner. Count on us, too, as you work to bring prosperity to all Colombians," Mr. Clinton said.

Pastrana, who arrived in Washington on Tuesday, met with Mr. Clinton a few days before his inauguration two months ago and said, "The ears of mistrust are behind us."

Pastrana had indicated beforehand that he did not want his current visit to become a drug summit, but he dealt with that issue forcefully during the arrival ceremony.

He said narcotraffickers will be ceded no territory or sanctuary under his presidency. But suggesting that he gives first priority to reaching a peace agreement with them, he said, "The only peace treaty acceptable to me and the Colombian nation is one that strengthens our ability to rid Colombia of cocaine production."

Colombia is one of the hemisphere's most deeply troubled countries. More than 1 million Colombians have been driven from their homes, the fourth-highest total of any country as a result of a conflict that involves the armed forces, leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups.

Upwards of 10,000 insurgents operate full time often in cooperation with drug traffickers.

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