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Ecuador says may impose Colombia trade sanctions

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa gestures during a news conference in the South American Union of Nations (UNASUR) summit in Brasilia May 23, 2008. REUTERS/Roberto Jayme

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador said on Tuesday it may impose trade restrictions on Colombia, part of a diplomatic dispute stemming from a Colombian military raid on Ecuador’s side of the border in March.

The threat came after Colombia postponed this week’s scheduled restoration of diplomatic ties with its neighbor.

“We do not discard the possibility of applying some trade restrictions on Colombia in the future,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Isabel Salvador told reporters.

The rift began nearly four months ago with a Colombian military strike against a rebel camp on Ecuadorean ground. Ecuador broke diplomatic relations over the bombing raid, which killed a Colombian rebel leader.

Left-wing Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who has clashed with Colombia’s conservative leader, Alvaro Uribe, said over the weekend that his country was aggrieved by Colombia’s actions throughout the dispute and that Ecuador would be the one to set a timetable for re-establishing relations.

The countries were set to renew ties this week at the level of charges d’affaires in a deal brokered by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

“But the recent statements by President Correa have closed the possibility of advancing this process,” Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo said in a statement to Colombian radio early on Tuesday.

The Organization of American States on Tuesday called on both sides to stop making public statements of a distancing nature and get on with restoring ties.

Colombia says computer files found in the destroyed rebel camp show that Ecuador and Venezuela had secret ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, a charge both countries deny.

Reporting by Alexandra Garcia, writing by Hugh Bronstein