US Pleased With Outcome Of Colombian Presidential Election

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

(1st Add: Includes comments from the United Nations.)

( - The State Department said Monday the United States welcomes the election of Alvaro Uribe, who ran as an independent for Colombia's presidency. He was elected Sunday with 53 percent of the vote, defeating 10 other candidates.

A State Department official said the United States hopes that Uribe's victory will "advance our shared goals of eliminating the scourges of narcotics trafficking and terrorism, improving human rights conditions and ensuring a prosperous future for all Colombia."

At a press conference on Monday, Uribe called on the United States to step up military aid to combat drug trafficking and prevent arms shipments from reaching FARC and other rebel groups in Colombia.

Uribe also said he would approach the United Nations to see if it could help negotiate a cease-fire between the rebel factions and government forces.

Uribe is a big proponent of U.S. military aid. Colombia is one of the biggest recipients of U.S. aid, but under current law, that aid can be used only to fight drug trafficking.

Presidents Bush and Clinton have sent more than $1 billion in aid to Colombia.

U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson visited Uribe's campaign headquarters at a Bogota hotel to congratulate him on his win before he even declared victory.

"Colombia and the U.S. have many big issues to deal with -- drug trafficking, human rights and the fight against terrorism. We're ready to work with the next government," Patterson told reporters.

The Colombian government activated heavy security for Sunday's elections. The main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had called for a boycott of the elections and even dynamited one voting precinct, killing a woman. But reports said most of the voting elsewhere was peaceful.

Colombia has been embroiled in civil war for 38 years.

One of Uribe's rivals, Horacio Serpa, received 31 percent of the vote and then resigned as head of the Liberal Party. The Conservative Party did not field a candidate.

Uribe, elected to a four-year term, will succeed President Andres Pastrana in August. Pastrana was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.

The United Nations said Tuesday it welcomed the fact that the Colombian people were able to exercise their right to vote during Sunday's election and looked forward to seeing Uribe's plans for the world body's involvement in helping to bring peace to the war-torn country.

"The United Nations has been supporting peace efforts in Colombia, and will examine with care and interest president-elect Alvaro Uribe's proposals regarding a future role for the Organization in new peace efforts," Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement.

Eckhard also said the UN applauded the Columbian people for acting decisively to elect the candidate of their choice.

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