*LEF412   08/04/94


(SP) (Gelbard, Skol at House hearing Aug. 3 - LSI408) +lf (640)

By Louise Fenner

USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government wants to continue its longstanding

cooperation in the war on drugs with the Colombian government and will

judge President-elect Ernesto Samper by the actions he takes following his

Aug. 7 inauguration, according to two top State Department officials.

"What is important is what happens in the future," Michael Skol, principal

deputy assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, told an

Aug. 3 House subcommittee hearing.  "We will be looking for action, for

aggressiveness, for (Samper) doing something about the Cali cartel."

He added that "our hope is that we can duplicate the level of

counternarcotics cooperation under President Gaviria, and we will do

everything we can to make that happen."

Skol and Robert Gelbard, assistant secretary of state for international

narcotics matters, said the United States expects Samper to keep his

promise to order a thorough, independent investigation of allegations that

his presidential campaign received contributions from the Cali cocaine


Gelbard said he met with Samper last October to discuss the charges, months

before an audio tape was made public that appeared to confirm a link

between the campaign and the cartel.  He said Samper "vigorously denied it"

and told him that two campaign staffers had been dismissed for accepting

such contributions.

However, Gelbard added, "We have felt that the totality of the evidence, the

reports we have received of involvement of drug traffickers in the

campaign, could cause a resonable person to believe this is the case.

"Samper has called for an investigation.  We hope and expect that this will

be an independent, serious investigation of the entire campaign."

Much of the hearing focused on why a program to share radar tracking data

with Peru and Colombia was suspended May 1 and has not yet been restored.

Rep. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) complained that cocaine flights to the United

States have increased 20 percent since May because Peru and Colombia are

unable to use U.S. radar data in their drug interdiction programs.

The Defense Department suspended the intelligence-sharing program because a

1egal review found that a 1984 law forbids the U.S. government from

supporting activities by foreign governments that could result in the

shooting down of civilian aircraft in flight. Furthermore, U.S. officials

could conceivably be prosecuted for abetting such a shootdown.

"This is an absurd interpretation of the law," said Torricelli, adding that

he believes the United States is "disproportionately responsible for the

current problems in U.S.-Colombian relations."

Gelbard said the intelligence-sharing program cannot be restored until

Congress passes a Defense Department authorization bill with a provision to

amend the 1984 law, which was requested by the Clinton administration.

Since much of Congress's attention is focused on health care reform, it is

not clear whether Congress will be able act on the Defense bill before

beginning a three-week recess later in August.

He said the United States was unable to finalize interim agreements with

Peru and Colombia that would have reinstated the intelligence-sharing

program as long as those countries agreed not to use the data to shoot down

civilian aircraft.

He also stressed that the radar intelligence-sharing program is only one

aspect of U.S. counternarcotics programs with Latin America.  Gelbard

criticized Congress for slashing economic, military and other

counternarcotics assistance programs, putting conditions on aid, and

continuing a freeze on funding for Peru that would support an eradication

program there.

"We need a much greater overall attack on the narcotics problem," he told

the panel.

The hearing was jointly sponsored by the House subcommittees on Western

Hemisphere affairs and international security.