Ecuador withdraws ambassador to Colombia

Updated: 2008-03-03 08:28

QUITO, March 2 -- The Ecuadorian government ordered on Sunday to withdraw its ambassador from Colombia, Francisco Suescum, saying it was protesting "a transgression of the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity" by Colombia's army.

Jose Valencia, Ecuador's deputy foreign minister, told media that the measure does not imply the end of a relationship with its northern neighbor, because trade links remain intact.

Colombia's army killed 17 guerillas from that nation's illegal armed rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in the early hours of Saturday, in a raid on a FARC camp in Ecuador.

The dead include Luis Edgar Devia Silva, better known by his alias Raul Reyes, who was the FARC's number two official, and acted as its spokesman.

Valencia said that relations could return to normal if the circumstances of the attack could be clarified to the satisfaction of Ecuador.

Also on Sunday, Colombia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had not violated Ecuador's sovereignty and had instead acted in what it called "legitimate self-defense."

The ministry said it would respond formally to Ecuador's diplomatic note of protest about the incident, in a later joint statement with the Defense Ministry.

Ecuador insisted that the action was an uncalled for aggression that had involved a three kilometers incursion into Ecuador to take the dead bodies of Devia, and rebel commander Julia Conrado. The attack had taken place in Angostura, a region in northern Ecuador province Sucumbios.

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