Colombia calls Ecuador border violation self defence

( dpa )- The lethal Colombian military strike across Ecuador's border on Saturday that killed a top Colombian rebel leader has unleashed a diplomatic and military crisis in northern South America.

Colombia said Monday the raid was an act of self defence and that it had found evidence in the raid that Venezuela and Ecuador have been supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) financially and militarily.

FARC has been carrying out kidnappings and murders and financing its operations through the drug trade and ransom demands for four decades. On Monday, Colombian Police Director Oscar Naranjo also said computer evidence seized in the raid showed FARC had traded 50 kilogrammes of uranium.

Ecuador and Venezuela have ordered an increase in their troops on the Colombia border, Venezuela closed its embassy in Bogota and Ecuador pulled its ambassador out of the Colombian capital. Ecuador has also kicked out the Colombian ambassador in Quito.

All three countries have warned of the danger of war.

The Cuban revolutionary figure Fidel Castro, who just stepped down as leader of the Caribbean island, said in an article under his name published by Communist Party daily Granma that he was hearing "the fanfare of war."

Spain, Germany and South American neighbouring countries urged calm.

"We have watched these developments with great concern," said Martin Jaeger, a spokesman for the German foreign ministry in Berlin. The escalation over the weekend was "dangerous and potentially destabilizing."

"We hope that all parties in this conflict exercise restraint, to avoid further escalation of the conflict," Jaeger said.

Spain called for "calm," offered to help the three countries "recover an atmosphere of understanding."

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said that Colombia owed Ecuador an explanation for the aggressive breaching of the border. The presidents of Peru and Paraguay, Alan Garcia and Nicanor Duarte Frutos, called for clear heads and calm. UN Secretary General Ban Ki- moon called for restraint and urged the three countries to hold talks.

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega had harsher words, calling Raul Reyes, the FARC second-in-command killed in the raid and a key figure in recent hostage negotiations, "my brother" and saying his death had killed "the chances for peace in Colombia."

"When will they finally understand that peace for Colombia cannot be found at the end of a weapon?" he asked.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe a "criminal and a mafioso" who served as a "lackey of the empire" - his nickname for the hated United States.

A furious Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa called the killing of Reyes a "most serious, back-handed and proven aggression of President Uribe against Ecuador."

Colombia has offered a half "apology" for the "necessary" violation of the border. Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo called it an act of self defence.

Naranjo charged that Correa has been supporting FARC politically and militarily, and had endangered the security of Colombia, Naranjo said.

Ecuador's deputy defence minister Miguel Carvajal called such charges "lies".

The Colombian Air Force on Saturday attacked the FARC camp in Ecuador with cluster bombs. The planes had not violated Ecuador's air space but had fired from Colombian air space, Colombia said.

After the rocket fire, Colombian helicopters delivered ground troops to the destroyed rebel camp 1.8 kilometres inside the Ecuadoran border, where they collected the body of Reyes and another FARC leader and other material, such as the computers, and brought them back to Colombia.

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