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Morales, Carter eye improved Bolivia-US ties
May 3, 2009 - Miami Herald

Associated Press Writer

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Bolivia's Evo Morales said Saturday they hope their countries are on the road to repairing badly strained relations.

After meeting for more than two hours in the Bolivian capital, Carter told Morales he does not doubt President Barack Obama's stated intention that he wants to improve ties.

The Bolivian leader responded that he has "great interest in bettering relations with the new U.S. government."

Washington and La Paz have been without top-level representation in each other's capitals since September, when Morales accused the U.S. ambassador of inciting the political opposition and kicked him out of the country.

The government of former President George W. Bush responded in kind, and Morales later expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from Bolivia.

Morales and others in his government have spoken of their desire to improve relations under an Obama administration, but in March Morales threw out the U.S. Embassy's second secretary - accusing him, too, of conspiring with the opposition.

Carter expressed interest Saturday in having the Peace Corps return to the poor South American nation soon, saying he would submit a report to the White House and the State Department. Corps volunteers were pulled from the poor South American nation last September.

Morales invited Carter to visit the coca-growing region of Chapare to pick the leaf - which is the key ingredient in cocaine but also has many legal, traditional uses in Andean nations.

Noting that Morales has been to his own property to harvest peanuts, Carter said he hoped to make such a trip on his next visit to Bolivia.

The former president also confirmed that his nonprofit group the Carter Center will monitor Dec. 6 elections in which Morales is seeking re-election.

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