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Bogota trip may herald shift in U.S. policy

On the eve of a controversial meeting with Colombia's scandal-tainted president, the White House drug czar skirted the question of whether Monday's tete-a-tete represents a shift in U.S. policy.

"I'm not a politician. By law, I may not take part in U.S domestic politics and certainly not in Colombian politics," Barry McCaffrey said after arriving for a visit.Yet McCaffrey also stressed that U.S. drug policy in Colombia is closely tied to support for democracy, which is under threat from leftist rebels.

"All of us who are friends of Colombia share a sense of concern over the tremendous violence opposed to Colombian democratic institutions," McCaffrey, a retired four-star general, said.

McCaffrey was to meet Monday with Colombia's military and police commanders, human rights groups, Cabinet ministers, business leaders and President Ernesto Samper.

The Samper meeting is the first high-level U.S. contact in more than two years with the Colombian president, whom McCaffrey himself has branded an accomplice of drug traffickers.