Ecuador calls for ceasefire

Quito (AFP) - President Sixto Duran Ballen said yesterday that Ecuador would accept a ceasefire as Peruvian troops forced back Ecuadorean forces in heavy fighting along their border in the Amazon.

Mr Duran Ballen said that Ecuador would accept a ceasefire if both parties worked through legal channels to establish "with dignity, the final definiton of our borders". But he warned: "We will not step back. Our armed forces know they are right," addingthat Peru had provoked the fighting by setting up posts in Ecuador.Peruvian officials were unavailable for comment but the presidential candidate, Javier Perez de Cuellar, former secretary general of the United Nations, suggested neighbouring Brazil mediate the dispute.

Enrique Proano, spokesman for the Ecuadorean government, said Ecuadorean forces shot down a Peruvian helicopter that attacked a military outpost in the Cenepa river valley.

Mr Proano said seven Peruvian soldiers were killed in an offensive launched on Ecuadorean positions . The conflict has claimed at least 23 lives since Thursday.

Tension on the border began rising with the approach of the anniversary of the signing of the Rio Protocol in 29 January1942. a treaty establishing their joint frontier.