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Last Updated:2/12/01
Excerpts from State Department Daily Briefing, January 31, 2001

Daily Press Briefing

January 31, 2001

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, D.C.
(On The Record Unless Otherwise Noted)

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to President Pastrana's decision to extend FARC (inaudible), as it's called, by four days?

MR. BOUCHER: It wasn't clear to me exactly what period. It is a very brief period that he has decided to extend this for. And we do understand that he has extended it for a brief period in order to allow time to hold a meeting with the FARC leader, to try to salvage the foundering peace process between the government and the FARC.

The Government of Colombia, we think, must be free to make its own decisions on what will yield progress in the peace process. We have always said that we would welcome developments that help Colombia move towards peace, national reconciliation, and progress against narcotics trafficking.

QUESTION: Did you say foundering or floundering?

MR. BOUCHER: I said foundering.

QUESTION: Yes, but that's the big thing at Columbia Journalism School. Flounder is a fish.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you, Barry.

QUESTION: Even though the United States is always saying that they back up the peace process mostly, whatever happens after a peace process, if there is a peace process or not, will impact directly on the relations and the work that the US and Colombia are doing. There is eight years ago Americans kidnapped by the FARC; they haven't responded. There have been seven extensions of the DMZ zone by President Pastrana; they haven't responded. There is also probably many things are going on inside the DMZ.

Is there any way -- space for peace after all these by the FARC?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, it is important to remember we have indeed expressed ourselves on the various things that have happened. We have cooperated with the Government of Colombia. We have cooperated with other governments in terms of, if you will remember not too long ago, the arrests of people that showed the connection between FARC and the narco-traffickers. So our assistance and our support for Colombia, including our endorsement of their efforts to gain peace, are very broad-ranging and indeed focus especially on the issue of narcotics trafficking, which has a connection to the FARC.

But I think in the end, we do need to say that we leave the government free to make its own decisions on how to proceed on the peace process. We do think the peace process is important. President Pastrana has pursued this steadfastly in various ways, and we really leave to him the decisions about how to proceed because, in the end, the country needs peace.

QUESTION: You've said in your response that it was a short period to extend this by. Do you mean that as an observation, or would you like to have seen them extend it by a longer period?

MR. BOUCHER: No, that is an observation. My people told me a week; I saw another report that said three days; you said four days. I'm just not sure exactly how long it was, but it wasn't very long.

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