Spain eyes role in Costa Rica-Nicaragua border spat

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Spain Saturday offered to help resolve a festering border dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Spain's top diplomat said at the close of the Ibero-American Summit.

"They've asked us if Spain could help, as part of a group of friendly nations, in seeking an agreement, and naturally we made ourselves fully available," Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told a press conference after the summit in this Argentine resort city.

Costa Rica accused Nicaragua of border violation October 21 when Managua's military began dredging the San Juan river that serves as frontier between the two Central American neighbors and over the navigation rights of which they have clashed since the 19th century.

The Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) last month asked Nicaraguan troops to withdraw from the disputed area and for talks to begin, but Nicaragua refused to obey and took the case to the International Court of Justice.

Costa Rica's new President Laura Chinchilla said after the one-day summit that regional leaders had come forth with offers of mediation in the border dispute, adding that her government "has not vetoed any country" wishing to do so.

During the summit, Chinchilla told her Latin American peers "not to turn a blind eye" to what she said amounted to an environmental aggression and a military occupation by Nicaragua.

The Hague-based ICJ had already ruled last year that Nicaragua had sovereignty over the river, but that Costa Rica also had the right to freely use the waterway for tourism and trade.

The court also rejected Costa Rica's request that it be allowed to deploy armed patrols along the river.

The OAS has called for a meeting of foreign ministers for December 7 to try to defuse tensions.

© 2010 AFP

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