Colombia calls on Ecuador to help fight rebels

BOGOTA, Colombia, July 1 (Reuters) - Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused Ecuador on Friday of not doing enough to help fight Marxist rebels on the border, ratcheting up diplomatic tensions between both countries.

The guerrillas attacked an army post bordering Ecuador, killing 22 Colombian soldiers on Saturday.

Officials in the province of Putumayo, where the battle took place, said the rebels attacked from the Ecuadorean side of the border.

Ecuador's left-leaning government, installed in April after former President Lucio Gutierrez was toppled, has declared itself neutral in Colombia struggle against a 41-year-old Marxist insurgency.

Uribe said on Friday Ecuador should do more to support his effort at smashing the rebels.

"You cannot be neutral when terrorists are attacking a democratic state," Uribe, who is the United States' closest ally in South America, told local radio.

Former President Gutierrez was seen by Colombia as an ally against the guerrillas. Gutierrez captured Colombian rebel leader Simon Trinidad in capital city Quito last year and was popular in Bogota for reinforcing border patrols against the rebels.

But Ecuador's new government has angered Bogota by taking a more neutral stance.

"We are not going to get involved in the problem," Foreign Minister Antonio Parra said on Friday. "We are going to limit ourselves to defending our own sovereignty and we ask Colombia to do the same on its side of the border."


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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