Ecuador has joined Venezuela in deploying troops to their borders with Colombia after Bogota bombed Colombian Farc rebels inside Ecuador.
Rafael Correa, the Ecuadorean president, also expelled Colombia's ambassador and withdrew his own envoy from Bogota in protest against what he said was an intentional violation of his nation's sovereignty.
Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, had earlier on Sunday mobilised warplanes and ordered tank battalions to the Colombian border.
He also ordered Venezuela's embassy in Colombia to be shut and diplomatic staff withdrawn, warning that Colombia's actions could spark a war in South America.
"We do not want war but we are not going to let them ... come and divide and weaken us," Chavez said on his weekly TV show.
On Saturday, Colombia's military announced its troops had killed Raul Reyes, a Farc leader, during an attack on a jungle camp in Ecuador, a blow to the group behind Latin America's oldest insurgency.
Chavez quickly warned Colombia against doing the same in Venezuela because he would interpret it as a "cause for war".
But Colombia denied it had failed to respect Ecuador's sovereignty and said Saturday's operation was a response to fire from across the border.
"Colombia has not violated any sovereignty, only acted in accordance with the principal of legitimate defence," the Colombian government said in a statement.
"The terrorists, among them Raul Reyes, were used to killing in Colombia and invading the neighbouring countries to hide. Many times Colombia has suffered these situations, which we are obliged to avoid to defend our citizens," it said.
Fernando Araujo, the Colombian foreign minister, said in a televised statement that it had been "indispensable" for Colombian troops to enter Ecuadorean territory during the raid.
Chavez has been in a diplomatic dispute with Alvaro Uribe, his Colombian counterpart and his ideological opposite, for months because of the Venezuelan's mediation efforts to free hostages held by Farc fighters.
|Chavez warned that Colombia's actions could |
start a war in South America [AFP]
Uribe has accused Chavez of using the mediation to meddle in Colombian affairs.
Chavez accused Uribe of lying about the details of the operation that killed Reyes, calling it a "cowardly assassination" of a "good revolutionary".
Chavez called Uribe a "criminal", saying: "Not only is he a liar, a mafia boss, a paramilitary who leads a narco-government and leads a government that is a lackey of the United States ... he leads a band of criminals from his palace."
Ecuador questioned if Uribe lied when he initially explained that the strike was in response to cross-border fire.
Uribe has complained before that Farc fighters take refuge in frontier areas, though neighbours say his troops are not doing enough to prevent the conflict spilling across the borders.