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U.S. Embassy official reportedly meets in secret with Colombian paramilitary emissary

A U.S. Embassy official secretly met with an emissary to the leader of a feared paramilitary group, branded as a terrorist organization by Washington, according to a memo made available Thursday. U.S. Embassy political officer Alexander Lee told the emissary that Washington would keep pushing for the capture and extradition of paramilitary leaders Salvatore Mancuso and Carlos Castano, who are wanted for drug trafficking, according to the memo. The emissary, identified only as Pablo, wrote the document for Mancuso to summarize the encounter. Pablo also sent the memo to President Alvaro Uribe’s peace envoy, Luis Carlos Restrepo, and a copy was obtained by the newspaper El Colombiano and The Associated Press. Lee also told the emissary that the paramilitary leaders might receive leniency if they cooperate once in custody, according to the memo. It said the meeting happened May 3 and lasted for three hours. U.S. Embassy spokesman Jim Foster refused to comment on whether the meeting occurred, but said that if it had, it was not a negotiation. “Our position hasn’t changed,” Foster said. “We don’t negotiate with terrorists. There was no negotiation.” Mancuso is military chief of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as the AUC, and Castano is its political chief. Full Story

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