February 8, 2006

Ecuador says unlikely to extend U.S. air base deal

QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) - Ecuador is not likely to extend
a deal that allows the United States to use an anti-narcotics
air base on its territory due to a surge in sentiment against
the American military presence, its deputy minister of foreign
relations said on Wednesday.

Deputy minister Diego Ribadeneira said in a television
interview that the Andean country's major parties would
probably block the ratification of a deal on U.S. use of the
Manta military base beyond 2009.

"I think it will be very difficult for a foreign minister
in 2009 to ratify this agreement," said Ribadeneira.

Since 1999, the United States has used the Manta air base
161 miles southwest of Quito to fight drug trafficking in the
region. The contract will be up for an extension by the
Ecuadorean government in 2009.

Most of the cocaine consumed in the United States comes
from the Andean region, according to U.S. authorities.

But the base has angered many Ecuadoreans who said the deal
undermines their country's sovereignty.

The base has become a hot campaign topic ahead of the
presidential election in October.

The United States has invested about $67 million in the