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Friday, January 12, 2007

Colombia, Ecuador reach agreement in herbicide row

January 12, 2007

Colombia and Ecuador on Thursday agreed that Colombia should give Ecuador warning before spraying herbicide close to their shared border.

This is the first agreement the two countries reached about Colombia's drug fumigation program that has triggered a diplomatic crisis.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said that he had "extensive talks" with his Ecuadorian counterpart, and agreed on a three-point procedure that would respect Ecuador's sovereignty but allow spraying to continue.

Rafael Correa, who is set to take office as Ecuador's newly elected president on Monday, told media they had agreed that Colombia must give Ecuador time to evacuate residents, must set up a commission on the spraying backed by the Organization of American States (OAS), and the two nations would collect reports from residents in the affected areas.

The OAS commission will conduct checkups on the spraying to make sure that the herbicide does not reach Ecuador and study how the herbicide affects human health.

"We have to see what people say," Correa said. "We have dozens, if not hundreds, of witnesses who say that glyphosate has destroyed their crops, triggered rashes among the people and made children vomit or has given them diarrhea."

Under a complaint being pursued at the OAS, Ecuador would continue pushing for the suspension of spraying, and the compensation for the farmers affected, said Correa.

Colombia resumed herbicide spraying in early December, breaching agreements made with Ecuador in 2005 to suspend all spraying 10 km from the shared border.

The two nations share 586 km of borders, an area frequently crossed by rebel troops. The Colombian government said that the spraying was to prevent rebel groups from receiving funds from the coca crops grown in the area, which is used in the production of cocaine.

At the start of the month, Jorge Barton, a senior Colombian anti-drug officer, said that the spraying campaign would continue until Monday, when Correa takes office.

From: People's Daily Online.

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