Chavez Calls Colombia's Cross-Border Rebel Raid a 'War Crime,' Seeks International Condemnation

Venezuela and Ecuador warned that a regional diplomatic crisis wouldn't cool down without clear international condemnation of Colombia's government for a deadly cross-border strike leftist rebels hiding inside Ecuador.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called the Colombian raid that killed two dozen rebels a "war crime."

In a bid to defuse a dispute that has seen Venezuela and Ecuador move troops to their borders, the Organization of American States on Wednesday approved a watered-down resolution calling the raid on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia camp a violation of Ecuador's sovereignty.

But Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said that while welcome, the resolution was not enough and his government still wants explicit condemnation.

"The OAS resolution pleases us. We are pleased, but not satisfied," Correa said, standing beside Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez late Wednesday in Caracas. "This isn't going to cool down until the aggressor is condemned."

Chavez, a leftist ally of Ecuador's president, called Saturday's attack by Colombia's U.S.-allied government a "war crime" and vowed to limit trade and investment with Colombia.

"We demand condemnation of the Colombian government for this aberrant act," Chavez said.

Colombia has accused both Chavez and Correa of having deepening ties with the leftist rebels, citing documents found on a laptop seized at the bombed rebel camp.

President Alvaro Uribe said he would not mobilize troops or allow his nation to be drawn into war with his neighbors.

Meanwhile, most of the 9,000 soldiers mobilized by Chavez had reached the Colombian border area Wednesday. Ecuador said it sent 3,200 soldiers to its border with Colombia on Monday.

Chavez blamed the crisis on the U.S. "empire and its lackeys" — Colombia's conservative government — saying they pose a constant threat of war in the region.

Colombia's commando raid into Ecuadorean territory Saturday killed rebel leader Raul Reyes and 22 other guerrilla fighters, who had crossed the border to hide from the Colombian military.

On Wednesday, the Washington-based OAS declared the attack a violation of Ecuador's sovereignty and called for OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza to lead a delegation to both countries to ease tensions. But the resolution stopped short of explicitly condemning the assault. The United States was the only OAS nation offering Colombia unqualified support.

Uribe's decision to attack the rebel camp reflected his frustration over the ability of guerrillas to find refuge across poorly patrolled jungle borders.

In Washington, a top U.S. diplomat said American experts would soon examine the hard drive of Reyes' laptop, seized during the raid. "This is the first time that we've stumbled across something coming from the FARC drawing such a straight line" between the rebels and Chavez, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon said.

Chavez dismissed Colombian accusations that the laptop's documents show he gave $300 million to the FARC and conspired with the rebels to embarrass Colombia's government.

Other documents released by Colombia suggest Reyes was secretly negotiating with representatives of France and other European nations to win freedom for hostages including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three American defense contractors.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy appealed directly to the rebels in an interview broadcast Wednesday night on Colombia's RCN television. He said Betancourt's release could persuade countries to no longer consider the FARC a terror group.

"If they let Ingrid Betancourt die, of course, there will be no discussion about that," he said in comments dubbed over in Spanish. "If they free Ingrid Betancourt, maybe some place in the world will see them a little differently."

In the Venezuelan town of San Antonio on Wednesday, soldiers marched through sugarcane fields with assault rifles, watching children dressed in school uniforms splash their way across the river that separates Venezuela from Colombia.

Despite a statement by Venezuelan Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua that imports and exports worth more than $5 billion a year were being shut down, the military said it had no orders to close the border.

But Chavez said Wednesday night that trade between the two nations is "coming down."

"We aren't interested in Colombian investments here," Chavez said. Colombia traditionally supplies food to Venezuela, but Chavez said that now, "we can't depend on them, not even for a grain of rice."