More problems that may lead to war.
)CARACAS, March 4 (Reuters) - Latin America scrambled to defuse a three-nation crisis that threatens the region's stability after Venezuela and Ecuador cut diplomatic ties with Colombia and ordered troops to their neighbor's border.
The Organization of the American States (OAS), the region's top diplomatic body, will meet in Washington on Tuesday to press for a peaceful end to a dispute that erupted after a raid by Colombian forces into Ecuador to kill a rebel.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa will also start a five-nation tour of the region -- including to leftist ally Venezuela -- to lobby for support against what he calls a premeditated violation of sovereignty.
"This is not a bilateral problem, it's a regional problem," Correa told Mexican television. "Should this set a precedent, Latin America will become another Middle East."
Latin American governments generally lined up to condemn conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for sending troops and warplanes over the border on Saturday in an attack on a jungle camp that killed Raul Reyes, a senior FARC rebel.
But Colombia, the top U.S. ally in Latin America, pressed its campaign for international support by playing up the threat from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
In Geneva, Vice President Francisco Santos told a U.N. conference that materials found on the slain rebel's computers showed the group planned to make a "dirty bomb."
The FARC was "apparently negotiating for radioactive material, the primary basis for generating dirty weapons of mass destruction and terrorism," he said.
"Terrorist groups, based on the economic power of drug trafficking, constitute a serious threat not to just our country but to the entire Andean and Latin American region."
The accusation came a day after Colombia alleged Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez funded FARC rebels waging Latin America's oldest insurgency. The OAS will probe Colombia's accusations.
Venezuelan officials dismissed the accusations as a crude attempt to smear Chavez, a vocal opponent of the United States, and urged the international community to focus on Colombia's "aggression."
"Their lies are not going to resonate in the world because the news, the condemnation, the worry in the world ... is that Colombia invaded Ecuador, bombed Ecuador -- that's the news," said Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua, a close Chavez aide.
THREAT AND INSTABILITY
In the region's worst crisis for years, Chavez and Correa expelled Colombia's diplomats from their capitals and ordered thousands of troops to their borders with Colombia. Chavez also ordered tanks and fighter jets to deploy, warning that war could break out if Colombia struck on Venezuelan soil.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, an ex-guerrilla and ally of Venezuela and Ecuador who has a territorial dispute with Colombia, said Uribe was a threat to Latin America.
The region's diplomatic heavyweight, Brazil, demanded Uribe apologize to Correa. It also worked on the crisis with Argentina, whose president will visit Venezuela on Wednesday.
"This conflict ... is beginning to destabilize regional relations," said Marco Aurelio Garcia, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's foreign policy adviser.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all sides to show restraint and end the dispute in a "spirit of dialogue."
France and the United States, and U.S. presidential candidates, also called for diplomacy to defuse the tensions.
Despite the three leaders' brinkmanship and the risk of military missteps, political analysts said a conflict was unlikely on borders that stretch from parched desert through Andean mountains and jungles to the Pacific Ocean.
Chavez, the leader of a growing bloc of Latin American leftist presidents, may fire up his supporters by challenging Uribe but he can ill afford to lose food imports from Colombia as he combats shortages in his OPEC nation, analysts said. (Additional reporting by Alonso Soto in Quito, Patrick Markey in Bogota, Anahi Rama in Mexico City, Raymond Colitt in Brasilia and Jonathan Lynn in Geneva; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and John O'Callaghan