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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ecuador protests mishandling of president at US airport

QUITO (AFP) — Ecuador's foreign ministry said Tuesday it had lodged a formal protest to the government of the United States over the treatment last week of President Rafael Correa by immigration officials at Miami's International Airport.

Correa refused to be searched as if he were an ordinary passenger by US screening officials, who apparently were unaware he was a head of state heading to Riyadh for the summit of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The ministry said in a statement it had lodged the "strongest protest" before the US government "for the lack of basic manners shown Ecuador's head of state by immigration authorities" at Miami's airport.

Earlier Tuesday, US Ambassador to Quito Linda Jewell expressed regret over the incident, in comments published by Quito daily El Comercio, but said US officials had not received advanced notice of Correa's layover at Miami.

The foreign ministry refuted that however, saying that "the Ecuadoran Embassy in Washington had notified the (US) State Department of the president's layover," and that the department had acknowledged in a response.

Correa, 44, a leftist, anti-American president friends with Venezuela's firebrand leader Hugo Chavez, promised to treat American dignataries passing through Ecuador the same way he was treated in Miami, his press secretary said after the incident.

After taking office in Decmeber, Correa vowed to end his country's joint anti-drug program withe US military before his mandate ends in 2009.

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