The United States and Poland broke a logjam Friday in negotiations over U.S. plans to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, with the Bush administration committing “in principle” to help Poland modernize its armed forces.
Poland is “satisfied that our arguments have got through,” Foreign Affairs Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said. At a news conference Friday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sikorski said that “separate” dialogues would now continue “both on the missile defense base and on the modernization.”
Talks on the Pentagon’s plan to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland stalled after the new Polish government, which took office in November, proved less receptive to the shield than its predecessor.
The Pentagon reacted coolly last month when Poland suggested Washington should help rebuild its air defense systems to counter Moscow and should consider signing a bilateral security agreement before negotiations on missile defense continued.
Friday, however, Rice said that “the United States is very committed to the modernization of Polish forces.”
Drug cartel chief shot to death
Authorities in Venezuela said Friday that Wilber Varela, the leader of Colombia’s Norte del Valle drug cartel, had been found shot to death in the Venezuelan resort town of Merida.
The location of the killing underscores the evolution of drug trafficking in the region. Increasing amounts of Colombian cocaine destined for U.S. and European markets flow through Venezuela, and as much as one-third of all the narcotic powder is thought to transit there.
Varela, 50, had long been rumored to be living and working in Venezuela under protection of corrupt officials. He was indicted in 2004 on drug trafficking charges by a Washington, D.C., federal court, a warrant was issued for his arrest, and a $5 million bounty was placed on his head by the U.S. State Department.