Ecuador says CIA controls part of its intelligence

QUITO Sat Apr 5, 2008 7:52pm EDT

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa makes a statement to the media after his meeting with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at Planalto Palace in Brasilia March 5, 2008. REUTERS/Jamil Bittar REUTERS/Jamil Bittar

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa makes a statement to the media after his meeting with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at Planalto Palace in Brasilia March 5, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jamil Bittar REUTERS/Jamil Bittar

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QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's president accused the CIA on Saturday of controlling many of his country's spy agencies, in comments that could fray ties with Washington and drag it into Ecuador's feud with neighboring Colombia.

President Rafael Correa has fired a top intelligence officer and plans to overhaul spy agencies for belatedly informing him about links between Colombian rebels and an Ecuadorian who died in Colombia's raid inside Ecuador last month that sparked a regional crisis.

"Many of our intelligence agencies have been taken over by the CIA," the leftist leader said during his weekly radio show. "Through the CIA, information found here was passed to Colombia to improve their position" in the dispute.

Correa also charged the United States with financing some officers in the Ecuadorian spy agencies.

U.S. Embassy spokesman in Quito Arnaldo Arbesu declined to comment on the charges but said, "We are always willing to work with the Ecuadorian government in any type of issue."

Correa, whose popularity has rebounded for his handling of the dispute and is an ally of U.S. foe Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, is a critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.

He has called President George W. Bush worse than Satan, and once vowed to cut off his own arm before renewing a lease that allows U.S. troops to use a key anti-drug air base.

The March 1 raid, which killed a Colombian rebel leader and more than 20 other people, raised the threat of war after Ecuador and Venezuela briefly sent troops to their borders with Colombia. Nerves quickly calmed during a regional meeting a week later.

Correa said he hoped the diplomatic spat would be over soon, but warned of legal actions against Colombia for the killing of the Ecuadorian citizen who was in the rebel camp.

Correa added that Ecuador's decision to sue Colombia in international court over Colombia's anti-drug spraying along its border was in response to the raid.

The suit filed on Monday has once again strained relations between the neighbors who share a 400-mile border often crossed by rebels fighting a four-decade war against the Colombian government.

(Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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