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US and Colombia sign military bases deal

Colombia and the United States have signed a pact on increasing US access to Colombian military bases, despite objections to the deal from left-leaning South American leaders.

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REUTERS - Colombia and the United States signed a pact on Friday increasing U.S. access to Colombian military bases, the Colombian government said, despite objections to the deal from left-leaning South American leaders.

The agreement, which gives U.S. troops access to seven bases in an effort to boost anti-drug and counter-insurgency operations, has been denounced by neighboring leaders, especially leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez says the pact will destabilize the region and could set the stage for a U.S.-led invasion of oil-rich Venezuela, a claim that Bogota and Washington dismiss.

"The pact is based on the principles of total respect for sovereign equality, territorial integrity and not intervening in the internal affairs of other states," said a statement issued by Colombia's foreign ministry.

U.S. and Colombian officials say American military presence in the Andean country will not exceed caps previously set by the U.S. Congress of 800 military personnel and 600 contractors.

Local television showed U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield signing the pact in an early morning ceremony held in Bogota along with Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez.
 

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