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Colombia Calls for Drug War Study

September 6, 2001

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ President Andres Pastrana called Thursday for a review of the global war against drugs, saying it should extend beyond the U.S.-backed spraying of drug crops.

Pastrana _ who is to meet here with Secretary of State Colin Powell next week _ also said Washington’s suspension of joint interdiction of drug flights with Colombia and Peru ``has allowed a lot of drugs to pass over our territory because there is no control of our air space.″

The program was suspended following the accidental shootdown of a U.S. missionary plane over the Peruvian amazon in April. Pastrana urged the United States and its allies to establish a policy on interdiction.

``I think we can truly hit the heart of the (drug) business, through interdiction and not simply through fumigation,″ Pastrana told a small group of foreign reporters.

The fumigation of drug crops _ mainly coca from which cocaine is made _ by U.S. State Department crop-dusters is the linchpin of Washington’s $1.3 billion counternarcotics policy in Colombia, which makes most of the world’s cocaine. But it has come under increasing fire recently amid allegations it is harmful to humans and the environment.

Pastrana gave no indication that he would backtrack on the spraying, but said he wanted to focus on coca plantations that are protected and taxed by leftist rebels and right wing paramilitaries in Colombia.

Speaking with the reporters in the presidential palace, Pastrana said President Bush should organize an international conference to re-evaluate anti-drug strategies.

Wiping out drug crops has had some success, Pastrana noted. But he said high drug demand in the United States and Europe makes the global narcotics business one of the largest in the world, worth some $500 billion annually.

Pastrana said the conference should look at past successes and ``errors″ of the global anti-drug strategy and should also focus on money laundering and nations that supply chemicals used to process cocaine.

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