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U.S. Plane to Patrol Colombian Skies During Presidential Inauguration

A U.S. surveillance plane will patrol above Colombia next week as part of the security plan to prevent a terrorist attack during the presidential inauguration.

Authorities will be on maximum alert in the capital, Bogota, during Wednesday's swearing-in of President-elect Alvaro Uribe, who has survived several assassination attempts and is despised by leftist rebels fighting in the country's decades-old conflict.

A P3 aircraft and eight-member crew from the U.S. Customs Service will police the skies above the capital that day for unauthorized aircraft, the U.S. Embassy said Friday. Members of Colombia's air force also will be on board.

Several Latin American presidents and a high-level delegation from the United States -- led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick -- are scheduled to attend the ceremony.

Last month, Colombian secret police captured an alleged member of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, who apparently was organizing a plot to dive an airplane into a government building.

Police said Jorge Carvajalino hired a pilot to crash into either Congress last month or the presidential palace on inauguration day. While the ceremony itself is held at the Congress building, there is typically a ceremony at the palace.

Four small aircraft have made unauthorized flights in Bogota's air space during the past two months, frightening Colombian authorities who were unable to identify the planes.

Uribe, elected in a May landslide on promises to subdue the rebels, has been targeted by numerous assassination plots. Weeks before the election, a bomb ripped into Uribe's campaign motorcade in the northern city of Barranquilla, killing five bystanders but leaving him unhurt.

Also, the number of bombings has increased since President Andres Pastrana's government ended peace negotiations with the FARC earlier this year. Pastrana is constitutionally barred from a second term.

Three people were injured badly Saturday in Cundinamarca province when FARC fighters tried to launch a gas cylinder -- commonly used as an exploding missile -- into a police training academy. The fighters instead hit a row of houses, police said.

The U.S. government has spent nearly $2 billion over the last several years to help Colombia fight drugs and poverty.

The U.S. delegation scheduled to attend the ceremony include Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich, White House drug czar John Waters and U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson.