Court reviews controversial US drug treaty

Ruling may stop surveillance flights from Ecuadorean airfield
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The Independent US

An Ecuadorean court in Quito is reviewing an increasingly controversial treaty that allows the US military to operate drug surveillance flights from an airfield on Ecuador's Pacific coast.

An Ecuadorean court in Quito is reviewing an increasingly controversial treaty that allows the US military to operate drug surveillance flights from an airfield on Ecuador's Pacific coast.

At the request of a peasant group, the Constitutional Tribunal will review the 10-year agreement for any discrepancies with Ecuador's constitution, officials said.

The court, Ecuador's highest constitutional arbiter, could order the government to re-negotiate the deal.

Ecuador signed the pact in October 1999, allowing the US military to run surveillance flights over drug-producing regions in Central and South America from its Manta airfield, 160 miles southwest of Quito.

Many Ecuadoreans fear their nation is being set up as a staging ground for US intervention in Colombia and want to avoid direct conflict with that country's powerful leftist rebel movements, which protect the narcotics trade.

Those suspicions have heightened in the wake of the $7.5 billion, US-backed initiative known as Plan Colombia to eradicate drug cultivation and trafficking there.

Polls have shown that most Ecuadoreans believe Plan Colombia will have negative effects on their country by causing either violence, drug cultivation or refugees to spill across the border.

The Ecuadorean military last week reported a skirmish between right-wing Colombian paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas that left two dead near the border with Colombia.

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