Ecuadorean minister resigns over Amazon project
QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Fander Falconi quit on Tuesday after President Rafael Correa criticized the way he was negotiating a project to protect the Amazon rainforest and set a June deadline to close the deal.
"Falconi presented his resignation," a government statement said. He had served as the Andean country's chief diplomat since December 2008.
Under Correa's Yasuni initiative, OPEC-member Ecuador would leave 850 million barrels of oil, worth $6 billion, underground in its Amazon region as a contribution to countering climate change.
In return for not extracting the oil, Ecuador is looking to donor countries to pay it $350 million a year.
Falconi headed Ecuador's effort to get international support for the initiative, but Correa said on Saturday the negotiations with donor nations were being handled "shamefully."
The president said the committee headed by Falconi was not tough enough in negotiations and potential donors such as Germany and Belgium were attempting to dictate terms.
"We are not going to accept their conditions," Correa said late on Tuesday, hours after Falconi's resignation. "They can keep their money."
Correa said on Saturday the committee negotiating the Yasuni initiative has until June to strike a deal or his government will go ahead and exploit the oil reserves.
In his resignation statement, Falconi objected to placing the six-month time limit on the talks.
Ecuador says not touching the oil would avoid creating 410 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia, Writing by Hugh Bronstein)
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