COLOMBIA SAYS DRUG PROFITS MAY SOON END BOGOTA, Colombia - Insisting that the U.S.-backed campaign to wipe out Colombia's drug crops is producing results, the commander of Colombia's armed forces said Friday that cocaine-trafficking rebels are planning for the day when the drug crops are gone altogether. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, aim to sink their millions of dollars in drug profits into legitimate enterprises, in order to keep their money working for them once the cocaine heyday is over, Gen. Carlos Alberto Ospina said in an interview with The Associated Press. "In conversations among members of the FARC, they have begun contemplating the possibility that drug trafficking will end, though not this year or next year," Ospina said. "They have talked about investing in other businesses, institutions and companies through front organizations." Ospina would not divulge where his information on rebel contingency plans came from. However, a number of rebel deserters have been supplying Colombian authorities with FARC plans, possibly including money-making schemes. The report comes as authorities in Washington and Bogota are waiting for concrete results from their costly effort to wipe out the drug crops that fuel this South American nation's guerrilla war, now in its 40th year. Since 2001, aerial spraying has reduced coca crops by 33 percent, to 280,000 acres last year, according to official reports. White House drug czar John Walters recently said cocaine prices on U.S. streets remain unchanged, a sign that cocaine supplies remain stable. He contended traffickers have stored tons of cocaine and draw upon this stock to keep prices stable. Ospina, clad in camouflage fatigues, appeared relaxed during the hourlong interview at the AP office in Bogota. He was accompanied by Gen. Martin Orlando Carreno, the head of the Colombian Army who is also a veteran field commander, and by their bodyguards. The two commanders have been leading a nationwide offensive, dubbed "Plan Patriot," that aims to push the rebels to the farthest corners of this Andean nation and force them to enter peace talks. "The FARC are being hit hard, but they are not defeated," Carreno said. "They still have a very big economic infrastructure." Ospina, meanwhile, said continued U.S. aid was important in helping Colombia defeat the FARC and a smaller rebel group, and that he doubted the aid will be jeopardized by the arrests of three Colombi an soldiers, including a second lieutenant, for the killings of three union leaders. The Colombian attorney general's office this week charged the soldiers with homicide in the Aug. 5 killings of the union officials in northeast Colombia's Arauca state. Military commanders initially said the three union leaders were linked to the rebels and were killed in a gun battle. Deputy Attorney General Alberto Santana disputed that account Tuesday, saying "there was no gunfight." Ospina said the three soldiers are being detained at a military base in the northern city of Bucaramanga, and that Washington can be confident that the Colombian justice system will take its course. At stake for Colombia is about $32 million, or 12 percent of U.S. aid to Colombia's armed forces for 2005. Each year, the U.S. State Department releases this money only after certifying the government has met human rights criteria. U.S. authorities have not yet made any formal pronouncements about the killings of the union leaders. Ospina said he had reports the union officials were indeed killed in a gunbattle, but added that the case must now be thoroughly investigated to see if the soldiers are guilty. "If they're found responsible, they will be punished," the armed forces chief said.