August 30, 2007 / 4:41 PM / 12 years ago

U.S. congressman contrite after Colombian faux pas

David Dreier (L), Republican U.S. Congressman from California, is seen seated on top of the wooden podium in Colombia's Congress in this August 28, 2007 file photo. Dreier said on August 30, 2007 he meant no offense when he hoisted himself onto the lectern of Colombia's lower house to address his Andean colleagues, some of whom were offended or simply amused by the faux pas. REUTERS/Jhonny Hoyos/El Nuevo Siglo

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A U.S. congressman said on Thursday he meant no offense when he hoisted himself onto the lectern of Colombia’s lower house to address his Andean colleagues, some of whom were offended or simply amused by the faux pas.

Colombian newspapers carried pictures of Rep. David Dreier, a California Republican, sitting on top of the wooden podium and talking with local legislators on Tuesday while on an official visit.

Some in the photographs are seen smiling at Dreier while others avert their eyes uncomfortably. He was criticized in the press for showing a lack of respect.

“I have the highest regard for the Congress of Colombia,” Dreier told reporters in Bogota. “I meant absolutely no offense ... I simply wanted to demonstrate my warm feeling and affection.”

One local lawmaker called Dreier’s behavior “out of place” while another said it was “funny but not malicious.”

Dreier’s visit comes as the two countries try to hammer out a free trade deal despite objections from some U.S. lawmakers who say Colombia lags on human rights.

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