Friday, March 7, 2008

Colombia crisis ends with accord

Colombia crisis ends with accord

SANTA DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNN) -- The presidents of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador Friday signed a declaration to end a crisis sparked when Colombian troops killed a rebel leader and 21 others inside Ecuadoran territory.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, left, and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Friday.

1 of 2 "With the promise not to ever again assault a brother country and the request for forgiveness [by Colombia], we can consider this very serious incident resolved," said Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.

Correa, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe shook hands at the end of what had been a contentious meeting of the Rio Group of Latin American leaders.

In the accord, the leaders condemned Colombia's action and affirmed that no country has the right to violate the territory of another. Correa and Chavez also accepted Colombia's apology for the incident and accept that Uribe will not repeat it.

In a nod to Colombia's concerns, the declaration also committed all the countries to fight threats to national stability from "irregular or criminal groups," The Associated Press reported.

Steps were taken immediately to defuse tensions, AP reported. Colombia pledged not to seek genocide charges against Chavez at an international court, while Nicaragua said it would restore the diplomatic relations it severed with Colombia a day earlier, according to AP.

Chavez said trade with Colombia should "keep increasing," two days after saying he didn't want even "a grain of rice" from his neighbor, AP reported.

The goodwill gestures capped a summit in which Correa and left-leaning ally Chavez verbally pummeled Uribe, with Correa chiding him for "insolence" and urging him to "stop trying to justify the unjustifiable."

Uribe in turn called Correa a communist.

The diplomatic spat began Saturday when Colombian troops and police crossed into Ecuador and killed 22 people. The dead included Luis Edgar Devia Silva, known as "Raul Reyes," the second-in-command of the leadership council of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC in its Spanish acronym.

Reyes was the first member of the seven-member leadership council, known as general secretariat, to be killed by Colombia in the 44 years the rebel group has been fighting to overthrow the government.

Another member of FARC's leadership council -- Ivan Rios, the nom de guerre of Manuel de Jesus Munoz -- was killed by his chief of security in a separate incident, said a Colombian official, according to AP.

FARC is estimated to be holding at least 700 hostages in the jungles of Colombia and has been accused by the United States of being a terrorist organization.

Colombia had justified the attack by saying it was necessary to counter a threat to its national security.

The government said it seized laptops from the attacked rebel camp showing that Venezuela gave $300 million to the rebels and that senior Ecuadoran officials met with FARC rebels.

Ecuador and Venezuela denied the allegations, promptly condemned the raid and moved troops to their borders with Colombia.

"I have never done it and will never do it," Chavez said of the allegations he gave $300 million to the rebels, AP reported. "I could have sent a lot of rifles to the FARC. I will never do it because I want peace."

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