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Colombia-UN 1stLd-Writethru 03-04

Colombia defends raid in Ecuador to UN body, saying rebels may have sought to make dirty bombs

Eds: UPDATES with documents provided to reporters not bearing out claim of dirty bomb.

AP Photo GE105

By ELIANE ENGELER

Associated Press Writer

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GENEVA (AP) — Colombia’s vice president on Tuesday defended his country’s attack on a rebel base on Ecuadorean soil, telling a U.N. disarmament panel that the leftist guerrillas were trying to acquire radioactive material that could be used to make "dirty bombs."

Vice President Francisco Santos said evidence in two computers found after the attack indicated rebels trying to acquire radioactive material — "the primary basis for generating dirty weapons of mass destruction and terrorism."

But the evidence Colombia shared with reporters didn’t support Santos’ allegation, indicating instead that the rebels were trying to buy uranium to resell at a profit.

Speaking to the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, Santos said the discovery demonstrates that the economic power of drug trafficking is enabling terrorist groups "to constitute a serious threat not just to our country but to the entire Andean and Latin American region."

Meanwhile, Ecuadorean Justice Minister Gustavo Jalkh told the U.N. Human Rights Council that Colombia violated its human rights obligations when its military staged the attack that killed a key rebel leader.

Both bodies are in the same Palais des Nations complex that houses United Nations offices in Geneva, but it was unclear if Santos and Jalkh met face-to-face.

The regularly scheduled meetings of the panels came a day after Ecuador and Venezuela ordered troops to their borders with Colombia, expelled that country’s diplomats and largely halted trade at key points along the frontier in response to Colombia’s killing of Raul Reyes, a leader with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, on Saturday.

The guerrillas of FARC, who have been fighting for more than four decades, finance their operations largely through the cocaine trade.

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Ecuador’s Jalkh called the cross-border attack by Colombia a violation of his people’s right to life and security and a violation of fundamental principles of peace and security.

Ecuador "energetically rejects any actions which violate its sovereignty and its integrity, particularly when its territory was intentionally bombed, setting at risk the human rights of Ecuadoreans," Jalkh told the 47-nation rights council.

"The international community will know that it must close ranks," he said, adding that Colombia’s action "cannot be justified by any arguments."

Jalkh was responding to a Monday speech by Santos to the rights panel, in which he described Colombia as a peace-loving nation that was not looking for a wider war, but said it would stand firm in fighting terrorism and international drug trafficking.

Colombia has long complained that FARC rebels take refuge in Ecuador and Venezuela and accuses both countries of supporting the rebels financially and politically. Venezuela and Ecuador deny the allegations.

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Associated Press writer Alexander G. Higgins contributed to this report.

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