U.S. Urges Calm Over Colombia

BRUSSELS -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that the United States wanted to see a diplomatic solution to the tension surrounding Colombia after its U.S.-backed government staged a cross-border raid to attack a rebel camp.

Tensions rose in the region after Colombia sent troops last weekend to neighboring Ecuador, killing a key rebel leader and 23 other guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel group, known as the FARC.

"I do hope there will be a diplomatic outcome to this," Rice said, speaking at a news conference here after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

"The situation shows that everyone needs to be vigilant about the use of border areas by terrorist organizations like the FARC," she added. "The FARC is a terrorist organization. It's essential that they not be allowed to continue their operations."

Venezuelan President Hugh Chavez, who sees himself as the nemesis of the U.S. government, and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa have demanded international condemnation of the raid.

Both countries sent troops to the Colombian border in response. Most of the 9,000 soldiers mobilized by Chavez had reached the Colombian border area Wednesday. Ecuador said it had sent 3,200 soldiers to its border with Colombia on Monday.

Chavez blamed the crisis on the U.S. "empire and its lackeys" -- Colombia's conservative government.