Bush Welcomes Colombia's Uribe to White House Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe was in Washington on Wednesday to make the case for U.S. collaboration on trade and the fight against drug trafficking. President Bush supports Uribe's effort to persuade U.S. lawmakers to approve more military and anti-narcotics aid and back a trade deal.
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Bush Welcomes Colombia's Uribe to White House

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Bush Welcomes Colombia's Uribe to White House

Bush Welcomes Colombia's Uribe to White House

Bush Welcomes Colombia's Uribe to White House

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Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe was in Washington on Wednesday to make the case for U.S. collaboration on trade and the fight against drug trafficking. President Bush supports Uribe's effort to persuade U.S. lawmakers to approve more military and anti-narcotics aid and back a trade deal.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that Uribe faced skeptical lawmakers on Capitol Hill this afternoon, and angry protesters outside of Washington think tank.

MICHELE KELEMEN: President Alvaro Uribe seems like a man on a mission. He is determined to make his case for continued U.S. aid to fund Colombia's war on drugs and terrorism, and to persuade skeptical lawmakers his government is committed to the rule of law.

ALVARO URIBE: My first idea every morning when I get up is: My God, help me not to weaken the decision to defeat terrorism in Colombia.

KELEMEN: Uribe won a standing ovation during his speech today to the pro- business group the Council of the Americas, which was meeting at the State Department. The Colombian president was also welcomed here with a breakfast at the White House and a big endorsement from President Bush, who urged lawmakers to approve a free trade agreement with Columbia.

GEORGE W: The president is here to speak strongly about his record. And it's a good solid record. I thank the members of Congress for giving him a hearing. And we expect them to be open-minded.

KELEMEN: But the free trade agreement is in trouble. And Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has put a hold on $55 million in aid to Colombia, about a quarter of an aid package, to help Uribe's war on drugs. Leahy says he supports Uribe's attempts to cut links to the paramilitaries, but he's not convinced Colombia is doing enough.

PATRICK LEAHY: Unidentified Group: Uribe. (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

KELEMEN: Uribe was met with protesters outside the Center for American Progress, some were lying in body bags to protest the high number of trade union leaders killed by paramilitaries in Colombia each year. Uribe's motorcade swept past the protestors at first, but the Colombian leader seemed determined once again to get his message across. So he waded through the crowd.

URIBE: Unidentified Woman: Quiet.

URIBE: Unidentified Woman: Quiet.

KELEMEN: One man held the picture of his murdered father. Others called Uribe an assassin and urged him to step down.

URIBE: Maybe I have to apologize for mistakes but never for crimes.

KELEMEN: Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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