ANDREW O. SELSKY
March 07 2008
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- A Latin American summit on calming a border crisis erupted into an angry showdown Friday, with finger-jabbing lectures and passionate speeches before a plea for goodwill prompted stiff handshakes between the leaders of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
The three presidents later joined other leaders in approving a declaration designed to end a confrontation that was triggered by Colombia's military attack on a leftist Colombian rebel camp in Ecuador.
The dramatic high point came when Dominican President Leonel Fernandez tried to calm things down by urging Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to shake hands with his antagonists. Uribe then marched around the table and shared stiff handshakes with Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
Correa appealed to Uribe to respect their border and never again act unilaterally to send commandos into his territory to attack a rebel camp. If such an act is justified, then no border will be safe, Correa said, drawing perhaps the day's loudest applause.
The declaration adopted by the leaders of the 20-nation Rio Group noted that Uribe had apologized for last weekend's raid, which killed a top Colombian rebel leader and others.
The declaration, read by Fernandez, also reiterated the commitment of member governments to fight threats to national stability from "irregular or criminal groups."
Associated Press writers E. Eduardo Castillo and Jonathan M. Katz in Santo Domingo; Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia; and Ian James in Caracas, Venezuela contributed to this report.