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U.S. drug aid can target rebels

The government said Monday that military helicopters provided to Colombia to fight the drug war could be used against the country's leftist guerrillas if they were helping traffickers.

The State Department said there was increasing evidence of guerrilla involvement in guarding plantations and laboratories and transporting drugs in Colombia, the world's largest cocaine producer.

"We are prepared to see our equipment used, provided its purpose is the fighting of drugs and to the extent that there are direct links between guerrillas assisting drug traffickers," spokesman James Rubin said. "But any suggestion that we are providing helicopters to the Colombian government in its broad-based civil conflict with guerrillas is incorrect."

Rubin said U.S. law allowed for the military aid to be used to confront anyone directly involved in drug trafficking.

Rights groups fear U.S. officials helped blur the lines between the drug war and the guerrillas by labeling Colombia's armed leftist rebels "narco-guerrillas."

The United States has sent Colombia Huey helicopters and plans to provide three Blackhawk helicopters.