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17 Nov, 2008 22:59

Bolivia won’t let US anti-drugs agency return

Bolivian President Evo Morales has said he wants better relations with Washington under Barack Obama’s presidency, but will not allow the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to resume work in his country. He suspended the operations of the agency on November 1,

Speaking at a news conference in U.N headquarters, Morales said:

“My interest is to improve relations with the new president and there has to be respect from one government to another, one country to another, one president to another.”

Morales, Bolivia's first Indian president, sees a lot in common between himself and Obama, who’s become the first African-American leader in the US. He believes the best way to develop relations between the two countries is on the basis of mutual respect.

Relations between Bolivia and the US have been strained since Morales came to power in 2006.

A former coca farmer, Morales says the consumption of coca is a traditional part of life for the people of the Andean region and is protected by the constitution. He said Bolivia will be initiating a campaign to remove the coca leaf from the UN's list of prohibited drugs.

“The coca leaf is not a poison in its natural state. If precursors and sulphur compounds are added then that's something different, and we firmly combat that,” he said.

Also, Morales told the reporters that La Paz is holding talks with Brazil, Russia and France to buy helicopters that would help Bolivia to combat drug-trafficking.

The South American country is the world’s third largest producer of coca, the raw material for cocaine. The US is the largest consumer of cocaine.