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Colombia’s Uribe seeks support in London and Madrid

The conservative leader aims to convince Europe that Marxist rebels are the same than Al-Qaida

Colombia's Uribe tours EuropeConservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe visits London and Madrid this week to seek support to his controversial fight against leftist rebels, which includes prison exemptions to far right paramilitary groups accused of crimes against humanity. Uribe's European tour came shortly after rebels inflicted heavy losses to Colombia's regular army, as battles intensify in country's jungle areas.

Mr Uribe, who began his four-year term in August 2002 and changed the National Constitution to run for a second period, is due to meet Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's prime minister, in Madrid on Tuesday and Tony Blair in London later this week. He will try to convince both leaders that his plans to negotiate a separate peace with far-right paramilitary forces are correct despite strong opposition from human right groups around the globe.

Groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say the law will allow paramilitary chiefs to avoid paying the due penalty for some of the worst atrocities in Colombia's protracted conflict. The Organization of Americas States has also repeatedly expressed its concerns over Uribe's policy through its Human Rights Committee.

The hard-liner Alvaro Uribe, is Washington closest ally in Latin America and the US generously funds his military efforts to fight groups as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Colombia has received more than $3.3 billion in tactical and military support from the United States to combat drug trafficking and rebel groups and technical support from around 1,000 US Army officers. Intelligence cooperation is also a day to day business.

US increasing intervention in Colombia has sparked an angry controversy all over the regions. According to the Cuban press agency, Prensa Latina, both governments want to involve neighbour Ecuador in the fight, which may turn international the 40-year internal conflict.

According to former Ecuadorean deputy Carlos Vallejo, Washington wants to regionalize the struggle between the Colombian Army and the Colombia Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), and cautioned that would result in bombs exploding in Quito.

US plans count with the strong opposition of all countries with interests in the Amazon region. Brazil and Venezuela have already made explicit their concern over the possible regionalization of the conflict and a large scale intervention of US forces to help Uribe.

It is not worth to remember that in 2003, President Uribe asked Washington for a large-scale military intervention in Colombia "similar to the one in Iraq."

On the photo: Colombia's Uribe tours Europe

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