Colombia signs deal with NATO in Latin America first

Colombia on Tuesday signed an information exchange agreement with NATO, an unprecedented move for a Latin American country and a first sign of closer cooperation that already has several of the region's leftist leaders up in arms.

The agreement was signed during Colombian Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno's visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels and could facilitate initiatives such as the participation of Colombian forces in NATO military exercises.

"As an Alliance of democracies, we are gratified when countries sharing similar values reach out to us," said NATO's Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow.

The Colombian minister said his country did "not want to be part of NATO" but to "learn from NATO" and "share experience, particularly in the fight against drugs and terrorism".

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last month talked about closer ties with US-dominated NATO, provoking lively reactions from several left-wing Latin American leaders.

But NATO ruled out any possibility of Colombian membership saying it was not part of the North Atlantic region.

NATO, which currently has 28 members, has partnerships with a variety of countries including Australia and Mongolia.