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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                      (San Francisco, California)
For Immediate Release                                  February 26, 1998


                  1998 Presidential Certifications for
             Major Narcotics Producing and Transit Countries

Acting on a recommendation from Secretary of State Albright, President Clinton today sent to the Congress his annual list of those major illicit drug-producing and drug-transit countries that have been certified as either cooperating fully with the United States or taking adequate steps on their own in the fight against drugs. We can only successfully meet the transnational threat of drugs in cooperation and partnership with other nations, President Clinton said. Building on our efforts at home in reducing the demand for drugs, I want to work with our increasingly committed partners in the hemisphere and around the world to stem the supply.

Of the 30 nations on this year's list, 22 have been fully certified. Four other countries that have not met the standard for full certification were certified on the basis of the vital national interests of the United States: Cambodia, Colombia, Pakistan and Paraguay. The President has denied certification to Afghanistan, Burma, Iran and Nigeria, thus substantially restricting most forms of U.S. assistance for these countries.

Over the past year the United States has forged an expanded counter-narcotics alliance with Mexico, our closest neighbor and most important partner in the fight against illegal drugs. Since May, when President Clinton and President Zedillo signed the U.S.-Mexican Alliance Against Drugs, our two governments have: strengthened law enforcement cooperation; expanded extraditions (27 approved by Mexico over the past year, 12 on drug charges), streamlined arrangements for pursuing traffickers; tightened money laundering controls; moved to block the diversion of precursor chemicals used to produce drugs; increased drug seizures (cocaine seizures up 47 percent); and issued a binational counterdrug strategy. President Zedillo has also announced a nationwide public security initiative to combat crime, violence and corruption.

Colombia remains the largest source of cocaine entering the United States, and an increasingly important source of heroin. Over the past year Colombia made progress in some areas of counter-narcotics, notably eradication, but its record does not yet support full certification. Escalating violence in the Colombian countryside has further eroded the rule of law, and diminished the government's authority over large areas of the country, including areas important for drug production and trafficking. This violence represents a serious challenge to Colombian democracy, even as it threatens to spill over -- in the form of crime, refugees, corruption and drug trafficking -- to Colombia's neighbors.

The Colombian National Police and elements of the Colombian military continue, nevertheless, with active and effective counter-narcotics operations, increasing both eradication and seizures in 1997. In the year ahead we plan to work with the responsible Colombian authorities to expand eradication and interdiction programs, and we will continue to press for retroactive extradition, and for the vigorous enforcement of counter-narcotics, money laundering, and anti-corruption laws. We also note that in the face of dramatic dangers, the Colombian people remain committed to their democracy, and to ridding their society of the drug menace and its accompanying corruption. This commitment was demonstrated in Colombia's nation-wide municipal elections last October, and will be tested again in a series of Congressional and Presidential elections to be held this spring.

Based upon these factors, and in accordance with the recommendation from the Secretary of State, the President has certified Colombia on the basis of U.S. vital national interests. This will allow the United States to fully assist expanded counter-narcotics operations in Colombia, to promote the rule of law, and to support democracy.

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