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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 08:40 GMT
Ecuador clamps down on protests
Protesters in Ecuador
Mass protests have been largely confined to the provinces
A state of emergency has been declared in five of Ecuador's provinces as indigenous groups continue protests against free trade talks with the US.

Peasants have been blocking roads in highland areas since last week in an action which has cost millions of dollars in lost trade.

Protesters fear the trade deal to be negotiated in Washington this week will damage their way of life.

The state of emergency bans public meetings and imposes a curfew.

It was declared by President Alfredo Palacio in the highland provinces of Cotopaxi, Canar, Chimborazo and Imbabura, as well as parts of Pichincha, where the capital Quito is located.

"The president took this decision after exhausting all other options for dialogue," said Interior Minister Felipe Vega.

A final round of talks about the free trade deal is scheduled to begin in Washington on 23 March, with a deal expected to be concluded in early April.

Ecuador's neighbours Colombia and Peru have already signed deals with the US.

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