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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ecuador warns tension with Colombia could worsen

QUITO (Reuters) March 22, 2008 - Ecuador's President Rafael Correa warned on Saturday that diplomatic tension with Colombia will rise if an Ecuadorean was among the dead in a bombing raid on a rebel camp inside its territory this month.

Correa broke off diplomatic ties with Bogota after the March 1 Colombian attack on a guerrilla camp in Ecuador that killed more than 20 people, including a top rebel commander.

The conflict briefly awoke fears of war in the Andean region when Ecuador and Venezuela ordered troops to their borders with Colombia, but tempers cooled at a regional summit that led to a handshake between the three countries' leaders.

Despite an apology from Colombia, Correa has not reopened formal relations and said on Saturday he would look for ways to further punish his neighbor if it became clear an Ecuadorean was killed in the raid.

"It would be extremely grave if it is proven that a Ecuadorean died," the left-wing president said on a radio program. "We will not let this murder go unpunished."

He did not specify what type of action he might take.

Colombian planes bombed the camp belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia just inside Ecuadorean territory on March 1, killing over 20 people including the rebel's second in command, Raul Reyes.

Most Latin American countries joined Ecuador in condemning the attack.

Correa ordered an investigation after family members claimed one of the bodies belongs to an Ecuadorean locksmith called Franklin Aizalia.

Colombia's civil war often spills over into neighboring countries. Ecuador and Colombia share about 400 miles border that is difficult to police.

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