U.S. Pleased With OAS Resolution
on Colombia-Ecuador Crisis

By David Gollust

(VOA) The United State Thursday welcomed the Organization of American States’ resolution on the Colombia-Ecuador crisis, which calls for an OAS commission to investigate the matter. U.S. officials say efforts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to exploit the situation have no support in the region.

The Bush administration has strongly backed Colombia in its struggle with leftwing FARC rebels, and officials here are pleased the OAS resolution fell short of an outright condemnation of Colombia for its cross-border raid last Saturday on a FARC encampment in Ecuador.

Instead of the condemnation sought by Ecuador and its political ally Venezuela, the OAS termed the raid a violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty and instructed OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza to lead a fact-finding commission on the issue.

Both Ecuador and Venezuela say they have moved troops to their borders with Colombia in the wake of the Colombian raid, which killed a top FARC commander.

At a NATO news conference in Brussels Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed support for a diplomatic resolution of the crisis, and U.S. sympathy for Colombia in its 20-year conflict with the FARC.

"I do hope that there will be a diplomatic outcome to this," said Rice. "But of course it shows that everyone needs to be vigilant about the use of border areas by terrorist organizations like FARC. The U.N. and others have talked about the importance of being vigilant on these sorts of issues."

"And so the FARC is a terrorist organization and it’s extremely important that they not be able to continue their efforts, which have led to the loss of life of many, many, innocent Colombians," she added.

In comments here, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said the United States was pleased to join the OAS consensus for the fact-finding mission by Mr. Insulza, a former Chilean foreign minister.

Casey said he hopes it leads to arrangements among governments in the region to deal with groups like the FARC, for which he said there is universal rejection except by Venezuela.

"I think most of us, including I think most countries in the region, are puzzled by the insistence on Venezuela’s part in trying to insert itself into an issue that frankly doesn’t really concern them," he said. "The only issue that should concern them is the possibility, and the probability, that the FARC has also used Venezuelan territory, or Venezuelan resources to conduct their operations against Colombia and Comlombian citizens."

A senior U.S. official who spoke to reporters here said there is absolutely zero support in the OAS for Mr. Chavez’ behavior in the affair including his dispatch of Venezuelan troops to the Colombian border.

Colombian officials say the cross border raid yielded computer documents showing large-scale financial support for the FARC by the Venezuelan president.

It has prompted a call from Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ross-Lehtinen for the Bush administration to consider listing Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism, though spokesman Casey said it is premature to consider such action.

Casey said the Colombia-Ecuador crisis figures to be a major issue in a trip to Brazil and Chile next week by Secretary of State Rice. The trip has been long-planned but only announced by the State Department on Thursday.