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FARC acquired uranium, says Colombia

Sixty six pounds of uranium was for a 'dirty bomb,' Colombian officials say. Venezuela and Ecuador wonder: What else will seized rebel laptops reveal?

By Sibylla BrodzinskyCorrespondent / March 28, 2008

Uranium: Army commander Freddy Padilla displayed Wednesday a video of uranium that Colombian forces say they seized from rebels.

Jose Miguel Gomez/Reuters


Bogotá, Colombia

Weeks after the dust settled from the Colombian bombs dropped on a clandestine rebel camp in Ecuador, the information found on three laptop computers found in the rubble continues to reverberate in the Andes.

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On Wednesday, Colombian military officials said that they recovered 66 pounds of uranium that, they say, was acquired by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombian Gen. Freddy Padilla tied the uranium to the seized laptops, saying one of the computer files mentions attempts by the FARC to buy uranium, apparently to resell. Earlier this month, Colombian officials claimed the rebels were seeking uranium to make a "dirty bomb."

The controversial March 1 air raid killed 24 people, including the No. 2 leader of the FARC, Raúl Reyes, sparking Latin America's most serious diplomatic crisis in decades.

Venezuela has since restored full diplomatic relations with Colombia, and Ecuador says it intends to. But there's uneasiness in the capitals of Caracas and Quito about what else may be revealed by the FARC laptops – and how Colombian President Alvaro Uribe intends to use it, analysts say.

"There is a temporary rapprochement but the uneasy relationship will continue" as long the computer files are in play, says Michael Shifter, of Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank.

The laptops reportedly detail meetings between FARC leaders and members of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa's government – and a possible $20,000 rebel contribution to Mr. Correa's campaign. Another document, say Colombian officials, indicates Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez planned to make his own contribution to the FARC of $300 million and several hundred used rifles. Based on that information, Mr. Uribe threatened to have Mr. Chávez prosecuted in international courts for sponsoring "genocide."

After sending troops to the Colombian border, suddenly a week later Chávez called for reconciliation and Correa accepted Colombia's apology for violating its territory.

Laura Gil, an international relations consultant in Bogotá, says it was the computer files rather than their "vocation for peace," that led Chávez and Correa to stand down from the conflict.

"Chávez and Uribe checkmated each other," agrees Mr. Shifter explaining the lightning fast reestablishing of ties. Ecuador has been slower to send its ambassador back to Bogotá, wary that Colombia may still plan to use the information to its advantage.