Nicaragua, Costa Rica urged to pull back in river spat

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - The Organization of American States urged Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Saturday to withdraw their security forces from a disputed river border in a spat that forced Google to correct its maps of the area.

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega shows a map referring to the territorial dispute with Costa Rica during an address to the nation in Managua November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Costa Rica accused Nicaragua of deploying troops inside its territory last month in a dredging operation around a island in the San Juan River that has been the source of friction for more than a century.

In a resolution approved early on Saturday in Washington, the OAS hemispheric forum called for the countries to remove their armed forces from the area and begin talks to resolve their differences.

Costa Rica has no army but allegedly mobilized police forces to the border and asked the OAS to intervene in the conflict.

The Costa Rican government also complained that the border depicted by Google maps was wrong and favored Nicaragua.

Google mappers said in a blog on Friday that they had corrected their version of the border, blaming faulty data from the U.S. State Department that had led to ceding as much as 1.7 miles of territory to Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan military officer in charge of the dredging operation denied reports that he had used an erroneous Google map in planning the work, according to local media.

In Managua, the leftist government of President Daniel Ortega, a former Sandinista guerrilla leader, denied any incursion into Costa Rican territory and said its troops were on the ground to fight drug trafficking.

Twenty-two countries in the OAS voted to approve the resolution, which is little more than a toothless exhortation, while Nicaragua and its close ally Venezuela voted against, the hemispheric body said in a statement on Saturday.

“We hope Nicaragua understands the message from the international community,” Carlos Roverssi, Costa Rica’s deputy foreign minister, told Reuters.

A Nicaraguan deputy foreign minister fired back that the OAS did not have authority to rule on border disputes.

Nicaragua claims it is operating in its territory based off previous treaties and a 2009 decision by The Hague-based International Court of Justice.

(For the Google blog on the map error, go to here )

Reporting by Alex Leff in San Jose and Ivan Castro in Managua; Editing by Anthony Boadle