Colombian president says he won’t step down

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia’s president pledged Monday to remain in office until his term ends in August, backpedaling on earlier remarks suggesting he might resign to improve relations with the United States.
Scandal-plagued President Ernesto Samper told reporters that a statement issued by his press office over the weekend was misunderstood. He defended his country’s efforts to thwart the drug trade, arguing that his resignation would do nothing to stem the flow of drugs from the world’s largest cocaine producer.
“I said that if (cutting off) my head would solve the world’s drug problem, I would be willing to do it,” Samper told the Hora Cero news program on Sunday. “But so that my enemies don’t get any illusions, my head is not on the table.”
Relations with the United States have been strained since evidence emerged that Samper won office in 1994 with $6.1 million in contributions from the Cali cocaine cartel. Despite testimony against him by top campaign leaders, Samper was absolved of wrongdoing by a loyalist Congress.
U.S. officials have said openly they think Samper took the money.
On Saturday, Samper appeared to raise the possibility he might leave office early during a speech in the port of Barranquilla.
“If my leaving office contributes to improved relations with the United States and if the reality of Colombia’s achievements these past three years against drug trafficking were truly understood, I would be prepared to make that contribution,” he said.
The United States will decide on Friday whether to certify Colombia as an ally in the war against drugs.