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Spain Assumes Diplomatic Role in Latin American Crisis

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A top Spanish official says Spain is helping to mediate the conflict between its former colonies, Ecuador and Colombia, following Saturday's attack by Colombian forces on FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels inside Ecuador.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said he spoke to his Ecuadorian and Colombian counterparts Maria Isabel Salvador and Fernando Araujo, who he said agreed to negotiations aimed at restoring normal relations between their countries.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is set to meet with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa today to discuss the situation.  In Brazil Tuesday, Mr. Correa criticized Colombia, calling it an aggressor.

In Washington Tuesday for an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Isabel Salvador accused Colombia of perpetrating what she called a "planned and premeditated violation" of Ecuador's sovereignty.

Colombia's representative to the OAS (Camilo Ospina) acknowledged that Colombian military helicopters entered Ecuador's territory last week.  He apologized to Ecuador but defended the incursion.

Venezuela and Ecuador have since cut diplomatic ties with Colombia and ordered troops to their countries' borders with Colombia.  Trade between Colombia and Venezuela also has been halted at some border crossings.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has accused his Venezuelan counterpart of financing and supporting the FARC.

Colombia, the United States and the European Union have labeled the FARC a terrorist group.

Speaking at the White House Tuesday, President Bush said he told Mr. Uribe that the United States fully supports Colombia's democracy.  He said the United States opposes any acts of aggression in the region, referring to what he called "provocative maneuvers" by the Venezuelan government.

Colombian officials say documents found during Saturday's raid show that Mr. Chavez paid $300 million to support FARC rebels in Colombia.  Venezuelan officials reject that claim.

One of the rebels killed in the raid was Raul Reyes, a spokesman and leader of FARC.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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