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Ecuador Threatens to Take Colombia's Spraying Case to Int'l Courts
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Ecuador has threatened to take Colombia's aerial spraying to international courts if diplomacy failed to settle the dispute between the two countries, Colombian media reported on Wednesday.

Speaking to Colombia's media from Ecuador, ingoing foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said Ecuador would first tackle the problem using dialogue with Colombia, but would be willing to use "international tools" if it did not stop spraying.

Ecuador's current government called for a halt to spraying of coca plantations on the Ecuador-Colombia border, saying the glyphosphate herbicide used was harmful to corps and residents. It has called for a joint study into the effects of spraying.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe defended the policy by saying that spraying coca leafs was the only way to stem funding for leftist guerrillas. Coca leaf is the raw material for cocaine.

The dispute escalated after Ecuador recalled its ambassador from Bogota and Rafael Correa, Ecuador's president-elect who will take office in January, cancelled an official visit to Colombia.

The minister denied the cancellation was influenced by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Colombia's refusal to halt spraying during the presidential visit was the main reason, she said.

"I spoke to Maria Consuelo Araujo, Colombia's foreign minister, by telephone, asking her to suspend the spraying during the visit, but that did not happen and we had to suspend the planned trip," she said.

The foreign minister also said it was important for Uribe to come to Correa's swearing-in ceremony, so that the two nations can begin open and honest talks on the issue.

Colombia resumed spraying drug crops with glyphosphate along the Colombia-Ecuador border on Dec. 11.

Colombia is the world's top cocaine producer and exporter.

(Xinhua News Agency December 28, 2006)

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