Merkel pledges to support prosecution of militias in Colombia

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Angela Merkel has pledged to help stabilise Colombia during a landmark visit to the country

Bogota -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel Saturday pledged to support Colombia in its attempt to prosecute and come to terms with its history of right-wing paramilitary death squadrons as are part of an amnesty process launched by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

In the first visit ever by a German head of state to the violence- plagued country, Merkel promised support to Uribe in his efforts to buttress the authority of the state over the broiling conflicts that have put many sections of the country in a state of civil war.

After meeting with Uribe, Merkel said that consequential pursuit of the crimes of the past committed by paramilitary troops was essential to re-establishing the trust of the people in the state.

Uribe defended his himself against charges that he has not prosecuted the right-wing paramilitary leaders harshly enough. Earlier this week, Colombia extradited 14 top right wing paramilitary leaders and drug dealers to the United States, where they are wanted on drug charges.

Under the amnesty, rank and file troops were allowed to turn in their guns and return to civilian life while leaders were kept in jail.

Meanwhile, the left wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) holds sway over large parts of the country, where they are holding hostages - some of which have been in captivity for several years, and many of them top elected officials and security officers.

Merkel welcomed the massive investigation into 60 legislators - more than half of the Colombian Parliament - suspected of being closely tied to the right wing paramilitary forces. Merkel said the probe showed that the justice system was working.

Merkel indicated that she would like to meet with the State's Attorney for a briefing about the investigations. DPA

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