Obama comments on Bolivia 'plot'


US president Barack Obama, commenting on an alleged assassination plot denounced by Bolivian president Evo Morales, said today his administration "absolutely opposed" the violent overthrow of democratically elected governments.

On Thursday, Mr Morales said three suspected mercenaries were killed in the anti-Morales stronghold of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, after the police arrested a gang that officials claimed travelled from either Ireland or Croatia to slay him.

The circumstances of the men's deaths have not yet been established. One of them was Mike Dwyer (24) from Co Tipperary. Irish diplomats will meet Bolivian officials tomorrow in efforts to find out what happened. They are also arranging the repatriation of his body to Ireland.

The Bolivian leader raised the issue during a meeting between Mr Obama and South American leaders on Saturday at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

He later told a news conference Mr Obama should repudiate the alleged assassination attempt publicly and criticised what he said was US meddling in Bolivia. Some press accounts said he was suspicious of US involvement.

Asked about his contacts with Latin American leftist leaders at the summit, Mr Obama told a closing news conference that he rejected coup plots against democratic leaders.

"I just want to make absolutely clear that I am absolutely opposed and condemn any efforts at violent overthrows of democratically elected governments, wherever it happens in the hemisphere," Mr Obama said.

"That is not the policy of our government. That is not how the American people expect their government to conduct themselves," he added. "And so I want to be as clear as possible on that."

He acknowledged the United States' history of involvement in the region that has left many countries mistrustful. He said he emphasized in his talks with the leaders the need to move forward despite the past.

"I am responsible for how this administration acts," Mr Obama said, "and we will be respectful to those democratically elected governments, even when we disagree with them."