Colombia's Congress backs plan to lift re-election ban


BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombia's Congress approved an amendment to the Constitution late Tuesday that would permit President Alvaro Uribe, the Bush administration's most reliable ally in Latin America, to run for re-election in 2006.

The main article in the five-point amendment, approved by a vote of 113-16, lifts the ban on re-election, leaving it up to the country's highest court to decide if the change is constitutional. Political analysts believe the Constitutional Court would be likely to approve the change after some debate.

The Bush administration has quietly but steadily supported a re-election drive by government supporters who argue that Uribe needs four more years to help extricate Colombia from its long, drug-fueled conflict with Marxist rebels. U.S. officials believe that he has shown himself to be an effective leader in Washington's two-pronged effort to eradicate drug crops and pacify a country riven by chaos.

Since 2000, the United States has provided Bogota with $3.3 billion in mostly military assistance, and President Bush promised more when he visited Colombia on Nov. 22.

Uribe remains immensely popular 28 months after his election.

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