Page last updated at 04:59 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 05:59 UK

Ecuador holds Colombia 'plotters'

Hugo Chavez, left, talks to Rafael Correa, 23 May 2008
Mr Correa (R) is a critic of Washington and an ally of Hugo Chavez

Police in Ecuador have arrested three Colombians and an Ecuadorian accused of plotting to kill the country's leftist president Rafael Correa, officials say.

Police were questioning the men after their arrest in the capital Quito, said Attorney General Washington Pezantes.

The men were found with photos of the presidential palace and maps of nearby streets, local media reported.

Tensions between Bogota and Quito have been high since Colombia raided a rebel camp inside Ecuador in March.

Mr Correa, a critic of Washington and ally of Venezuela's left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, had been informed of the plot, Mr Pezantes said. "We don't know the particular details (of the plot), we only know that there were foreigners with contracts to attack the president," he said.

Scam artists

But Mr Correa raised the possibility that the plot was the work of conmen seeking to extort cash out of the authorities.

"It was a tip that we have been following for some time, but there is a strong probability they were just scam artists," he told local television.

Colombia's cross-border raid on 1 March caused one of the biggest diplomatic crises in Latin America in years.

The mission killed a senior commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Raul Reyes, and more than 24 other guerrillas.

The raid prompted Ecuador and Venezuela to send troops to their borders with Colombia.

The troops were withdrawn several days later after a meeting of regional leaders in the Dominican Republic.

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