Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 7 News List

US official will not return to Bolivia

AP , LA PAZ

A US embassy official accused of asking a US student and Peace Corps volunteers to collect information on Venezuelans and Cubans in Bolivia will not return to the country, an embassy official confirmed on Wednesday.

The announcement that assistant regional security officer Vincent Cooper would not return was made initially by Bolivian Government Minister Alfredo Rada following a three-hour meeting between Rada, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca on Wednesday in La Paz.

Goldberg "officially communicated to us that Vincent Cooper will not return to Bolivia," Rada told media following the meeting.

Embassy spokesman Eric Watnik later confirmed that Goldberg had informed officials during the meeting that Cooper, currently recalled to Washington for consultations on the issue, would not return.

Last July, according to embassy officials, Cooper mistakenly gave a group of newly arrived Peace Corps volunteers a security briefing meant only for embassy staff, asking them only to report "suspicious activities."

But embassy officials said they could not confirm whether Cooper also gave improper instructions to Fulbright scholar during a one-on-one briefing last November.

Goldberg said this week he "greatly regrets" the mistake, and thanked Bolivian officials for accepting his explanation.

"We always have every intention of improving the relationship between the US and Bolivia," Goldberg following the meeting.

Choquehuanca told reporters that while both Bolivian and US investigations into Cooper's requests continued, he hoped the two countries could now move past the issue.

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