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Mexican Official Urges U.S. to Endorse Anti-Narcotics Efforts

February 23, 1996|RONALD J. OSTROW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — A week before President Clinton is to decide whether Mexico is cooperating in anti-narcotics efforts, a Mexican official warned here Thursday that anything less than a full endorsement will damage his country's ability to work with U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Juan Rebolledo, Mexico's foreign relations undersecretary, said the worst possible outcome would be if the United States declares that it is not fully satisfied with Mexico's anti-drug actions but believes that U.S. national interests merit continuing aid to the country.

Such a finding, known as a "national interests waiver," would send two messages "which are the wrong messages," Rebolledo said at a briefing on Mexico's counter-narcotics policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here. "First, 'We don't trust you,' and second, . . . 'We'll certify because you are too close and important.'

"That would be a double hit and would send a message of distrust," Rebolledo said.

Rebolledo and Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Angel Gurria Trevino later met with Atty. Gen. Janet Reno.

Gurria also met with Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who said he has not decided whether to recommend full certification of Mexico. Clinton must decide by March 1.

Tension over the decision has been growing because of mounting concern about the major shipments of cocaine, marijuana and heroin flowing into the United States through Mexico and over the role of Mexican nationals in the production of methamphetamines.

Under 1986 amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act, Clinton must decide on certification for Mexico and 28 other countries designated as major illegal drug-producing or transporting countries.

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