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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

U.S. ratifies military withdrawal from Ecuadorian base

QUITO, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- The United States has ratified a proposal to withdraw its military staff deployed in the Ecuadorian base of Manta, possibly "before November," U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges said Wednesday.

In 1999, Ecuador authorized the United States' use of the Mantabase for 10 years to combat drug trafficking.

Hodges said the United States had not found an alternative to replacing the anti-drug Manta base.

"What we are going to do to replace the Manta base is still unknown," she told local TV channel Ecuavisa.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa's decision not to extend the garrison agreement had been severely criticized by the U.S. government.

Correa plans to prohibit foreign military bases on Ecuadorian territory, a law relating to which will be included in the country's new constitution.

"I should stand up and recognize the immense respect of the U.S. government for our decision ... They have agreed to withdraw from the base before November 2009," Correa told the nation.

Despite the end of the agreement, Washington will continue to support Ecuadorian efforts against drug trafficking. "That fight is going very well and it will continue," Correa said.

U.S. militaries operating from the Manta base have detained several ships and mini-submarines ferrying drugs in the Pacific and seized 1,617 tons of cocaine since 2000, according to the embassy in Quito.

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