Ecuador-Colombia agree to monitor drug fumigation

QUITO, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Ecuador's President-elect Rafael Correa has agreed with Colombia to monitor the disputed use of a herbicide used to wipe out illegal drug crops along their border.

Correa, a leftist economist who will take office on Jan. 15, said on Wednesday the deal does not prevent Ecuador from continuing with its suits to demand compensation for the damage caused by Colombia's fumigation.

Ecuador says the U.S.-backed spraying of the herbicide in Colombia hurts the environment and has damaged people's health on its side of the border.

"They will inform us when and in which sector they will fumigate so we can have Ecuadorean inspectors there to verify that not a single drop of glyphosate (herbicide) falls on the Ecuadorean side of the border," Correa told reporters in Quito after meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in Nicaragua.

He was not clear on the measures he might take if it is proven that the herbicide affects the Ecuadorean side.

He said a commission representing both countries and an international organization also will monitor the fumigation.

In December, Ecuador recalled its ambassador from Bogota in a sign of escalating tensions between the South American neighbors over the spraying.

Colombia, the world's top cocaine producer, says the spraying is vital in its efforts to crack down on the drug trade that finances leftist guerrillas fighting a four-decade-old insurgency.

Uribe, a Washington ally, has received millions of dollars in U.S. aid to battle the rebels and fight a massive illegal drug trade.

Colombia halted herbicide spraying in a 6-mile (10-km) swath near the border a year ago after Ecuador and rights advocates complained about the impact on local residents and legal crops.