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Kerry stresses US commitment to peace in Colombia

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the United States is committed to peace in Colombia, as he began a visit expected to touch on recent US spying revelations.

Kerry met with officials overseeing Colombian peace talks with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America's oldest insurgency, which have been held in Cuba since November.

Colombia is the closest US ally in South America, and has received more than $8 billion since 2000 for fighting drug traffickers and rebels.

Kerry also donned casual clothes and played volleyball with Colombian soldiers and police who have lost limbs to land mines in the war and who played the game in wheel chairs.

The top US diplomat met with his Colombian counterpart Maria Angela Holguin and President Juan Manuel Santos.

Kerry and Santos are expected to make a joint statement to the press at the presidential palace.

US Ambassador Michael McKinley said the talks would likely touch on US electronic snooping, which came to light when fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden revealed details of huge telephone and Internet surveillance programs.

McKinley said the United States was perfectly willing to discuss the surveillance with Colombia or any other ally.

"It is not an issue we are running away from," the ambassador said.

US officials have insisted the classified programs are perfectly legal and have played a major role in foiling dozens of terrorist attacks.

Kerry will head Tuesday to Brazil, where the spy programs have also raised tensions.

In Colombia, the secret US Internet capability allowed Washington to map FARC movements from 2008 until earlier this year, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported last month.

Elsewhere in Latin America, US intelligence scooped up data on oil and military spending in Venezuela and on energy and drug trafficking in Mexico, according to the daily.

After the O Globo report, Colombia complained that the surveillance violated its people's right to privacy as well as international telecoms accords and said it would seek an explanation from the United States.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130812/kerry-stresses-us-commitment-peace-colombia