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Obama orders Colombia trade groundwork

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Obama orders Colombia trade groundwork
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on June 29, 2009. (UPI Photo/Kristoffer Tripplaar/POOL) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 29 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday he has directed top administration officials to work on "how we can proceed on a free-trade agreement" with Colombia.

Following a White House meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Obama told reporters the two leaders discussed security, drug trafficking, the Colombian economy and political stabilization in Colombia. Obama said he and Uribe discussed "most prominently … moving forward on a free-trade agreement."

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"I have instructed Ambassador (Ron) Kirk, our U.S. trade representative, to begin working closely with President Uribe's team on how we can proceed on a free-trade agreement," Obama said. "There are obvious difficulties involved in the process and there remains work to do, but I'm confident that ultimately we can strike a deal that is good for the people of Colombia and good for the people of the United States."

Obama commended Uribe on what he called progress toward human rights in Colombia, including his handling of the killings of labor leaders. He said there have been "improvements when it comes to prosecution of those who are carrying out these blatant human rights offenses."

"Along those same lines, we obviously think that the steps that have already been made on issues like extrajudicial killings and illegal surveillance, that it is important that Colombia pursue a path of rule of law and transparency, and I know that that is something that President Uribe is committed to doing," Obama said.

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