Colombia planning to buy Chinese arms
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Colombia's government plans to buy arms from China for its internal fight against leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and drug trafficking, President Alvaro Uribe said in an interview published Sunday.
"Colombia, due to terrorist threats, has to be constantly buying weapons in the international market," Colombia's leader told El Pais, the main newspaper in the southwest city of Cali. "Now we are asking the Chinese government to sell arms to the Colombian army."
Uribe did not provide details on the amount or type of weapons Colombia hopes to buy.
The arms purchase plan follows a dispute between Colombia and Venezuela that began a couple of months ago when Venezuela, led by leftist leader Hugo Chavez, said it planned to buy 100,000 assault rifles from Russia and other military hardware from Spain.
Colombia's defense minister said the purchases would create a "military imbalance" in the region, and suggested the guns might end up in the hands of illegal fighters in Colombia. U.S. officials also criticized the plan, saying Venezuela's actions could destabilize the region.
In the Sunday interview, Uribe sought to downplay the controversy of Venezuela's arms-buying plans, crediting his neighbor for announcing the plans to the public.
"The important thing is that arms negotiations be public, because public negotiation provides information and generates debate," said Uribe, a conservative leader and Washington's top ally in Latin America.
Colombia's 300,000-strong armed forces, including police, have been fighting leftist rebels for 41 years in a conflict that also includes outlawed, right-wing paramilitary fighters. The illegal groups finances themselves largely from drug trafficking and more than 3,000 people die in the fighting each year.http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/americas/05/...lombia.arms.ap/