Clinton signs bill funding Colombia, Kosovo efforts
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton signed an emergency spending
measure Thursday that includes $1.3 billion in anti-drug aid for Colombia and $2 billion to pay for the U.S. contribution to the Kosovo peacekeeping mission.
Clinton signed the $11.2 billion measure in a private ceremony at the White House. It also includes more than $600 million to assist victims of the forest fires in New Mexico and nearly $400 million for victims of Hurricane Floyd.
The Senate and House approved the bill in June. The largest single portion, $4.4 billion, pays for military fuel, health care and other defense programs.
The funding for Colombia's $7.5 billion anti-drug effort, dubbed "Plan Colombia," has raised concerns from both Republicans and Democrats that it would lead to U.S. involvement in the Latin American country's decades-old civil war. Other critics said the money would be better spent on drug treatment efforts at home, to cut into the demand that fuels the drug trade.
Clinton said that Colombia needs the money to battle corruption and drug trafficking.
The country supplies an overwhelming majority of the cocaine used in the United States. Its president, Andres Pastrana, says the plan will cut drug production in half within five years.
The aid package includes 60 helicopters, training for military and police anti-drug units and intelligence. European nations are also contributing to "Plan Colombia."
Referring to the Kosovo money, Clinton said, "NATO forces won the war in 78 days; it will take longer to secure a stable peace. I applaud Congress for sending a message that we will stand by our troops until the job is done."
"They are fighting for all of us," Clinton said, adding that the United States should be willing to "take on some of the cost."
In his statement, the president added the bill is "disappointing for what it leaves out." He had requested funds for U.N. peacekeeping operations in southeastern Europe and funds to relieve debts of the world's poorest countries, but Congress did not approve those expenditures.
The White House requested the emergency appropriation for defense four months ago. Lawmakers more than doubled Clinton's $6.4 billion request by including hundreds of millions for election-year, home-state projects ranging from New York City's proposed Second Avenue subway and the crabbing industry on the West Coast, to a $45 million executive jet for the commander of the Coast Guard.