Colombian president, UK PM pledge to boost ties

AP News
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Posted: Nov 21, 2011 5:49 PM
Colombian president, UK PM pledge to boost ties

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday pledged to strengthen ties between their countries as the Latin American leader sought to win support for his domestic reform program.

Cameron praised Santos's leadership, saying Britain was "very impressed" with the president's economic agenda and he hopes the partnership between the two countries will continue to grow amid "great opportunities for growing trade and investment."

Santos agreed, saying he wants to "at least double" trade between Colombia and the U.K. over the next four years.

Santos is in Britain to attempt to rebrand Colombia as one of the new emerging economic powers in Latin America over a two-day visit that will also include meetings with Queen Elizabeth II and senior ministers.

There has been greater investor confidence in Colombia after its security gains of the past decade under former President Alvaro Uribe, including a weakening of the country's main rebel group by the U.S.-backed military.

Colombia's economy has been growing at about 5 percent this year, due in large part to increased investment in mining and the oil, natural gas and coal sectors.

But labor and human rights campaigners, especially in the United States, have long criticized Colombia's failure to punish slayings of labor activists or the widespread killings and theft of land by right-wing paramilitaries.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he hopes the South American country will continue to prosecute those involved in human rights abuses.

Cameron said Monday he was pleased the countries planned to sign a human-rights agreement during Santos's visit.

It was not clear what the agreement would entail.

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Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.