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By David Gollust
State Department
03 March 2008

The United States Monday appealed for a diplomatic solution of the dispute between Colombia and Ecuador spurred by Colombia's cross-border attack against FARC rebels inside Ecuador. The State Department called on Venezuela to stay out of the affair. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

State Department officials say they hope Colombia and Ecuador can resolve the dispute bilaterally or through the Organization of American States, the OAS, while saying there is no reason Venezuela should be involved militarily or in any other way.

Ecuadorean soldiers run to board a helicopter in Lago Agrio, northeast Ecuador, that will take troops to Angostura, near the border with Colombia, 3 Mar 2008
Ecuadorean soldiers run to board a helicopter in Lago Agrio, northeast Ecuador, that will take troops to Angostura, near the border with Colombia, 03 Mar 2008
Tensions between Ecuador and Colombia have been running high since Saturday when Colombian troops conducted a raid just inside Ecuador. Seventeen FARC rebels were killed, including one of its top commanders, Raul Reyes.

The situation was complicated Sunday when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been an antagonist of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the Bush administration, said he was sending troops to the Colombian border in support of Ecuador.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said the United States has long considered the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a terrorist organization and supports the Bogota government's efforts against it.

At the same time, he expressed support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ecuador and all the countries of the region under the OAS charter, and said the OAS, which is due to convene on the matter in Washington Tuesday, would be a useful forum for resolving it.

Tom Casey (file photo)
Tom Casey (file photo)
The spokesman said the only way Venezuela can be helpful in the situation is by adding its voice to those supporting of a diplomatic resolution:

"This for us is an issue between the governments of Colombia and Ecuador," he said. "We believe it's appropriate for them to work that out through diplomatic discussion. And our hope would be that other countries would act on this issue to the same extent, that what they would do would be encourage the parties sit down to work it out. I don't really see that there is any particular role for any other country, certainly not a military role for them in this issue."

Officials here said the United States has not observed the military buildup President Chavez says he ordered along the Colombian border and suggested his remarks on the issue were mainly political posturing.

Hugo Chavez (file photo)
Hugo Chavez (file photo)
Tensions between Colombia and Venezuela have been on the rise in recent months, amid friction over intervention by Mr. Chavez on behalf of hostages held by the FARC, and complementary remarks he has made about the rebel group.

Colombia's government says documents recovered from the computer of the slain rebel leader show links between the leftist rebels and the government of President Chavez. Colombia says it plans to share the documents with the OAS.

State Department spokesman Casey said the Bush administration understands and fully supports Colombian efforts to respond to the challenge posed by the FARC, which he said has "made life miserable" for the Colombian people for more than two decades.

He said he was unaware of any U.S.-Colombian collaboration in Saturday's attack into Ecuador and said U.S. officials learned of it only after it had occurred.

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