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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Diplomatic breach widens between Colombia, Ecuador

By Hugh Bronstein

BOGOTA (Reuters) October 4, 2008 - The diplomatic breach between Colombia and Ecuador widened on Saturday when Colombia called on the neighboring country to crack down on rebels using its territory to hold kidnap victims and launch attacks.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a Wall Street favorite and staunch White House ally, said he has information showing that Marxist Colombian guerrillas have camps on Ecuador's side of the border that are also being used to produce cocaine.

Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Colombia in March after a Colombian raid carried out on Ecuador's side of the border killed Raul Reyes, a top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

On Friday, Uribe canceled an October 14 trip he had planned to a regional diplomatic meeting in Ecuador after that country's president, Rafael Correa, said his government would "never forget the aggressions of Colombia."

"We won't miss you," Correa replied to Uribe on local radio on Saturday.

Uribe issued a statement earlier on Saturday calling for "effective" cooperation from Ecuador in combating the FARC, which has been fighting the state since 1964.

The guerrillas have used Ecuadorean ground to house Colombians kidnapped as recently as last month and to process the cocaine that funds the insurgency, the statement said.

Late on Friday, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos warned of a renewal of the Cold War as Russia plans joint naval exercises in the Caribbean next month with Venezuela, governed by leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez.

The Russian warships, led by the nuclear-powered heavy missile cruiser Peter the Great, left their base on September 22 in the latest show of strength by Moscow as it builds links with some of Washington's sharpest critics.

Colombia says information found in the computer of late FARC leader Reyes shows links between the rebels, labeled terrorists by Washington, and neighboring Venezuela.

"Who would have thought that we would be getting close to restarting the Cold War, involving neighboring countries that in one form or another have had direct connections with our internal enemies," Santos said.

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