- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA (AP) - The Organization of American States chief urged Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Tuesday to withdraw security forces from a border zone to ease tensions over a two-century-old territorial dispute that has flared up and drawn in Google.

OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza made several recommendations for resolving the dispute after visiting the two Central American countries over the weekend and flying over the disputed area.

Insulza, who presented the proposals during an OAS meeting in Washington, also called on the countries to quickly resume talks over the border and other bilateral issues, including anti-narcotics cooperation.

Costa Rica asked the OAS to tell Nicaragua to stop dredging in the San Juan River and to remove about 50 Nicaraguan soldiers from its territory. The Costa Rican government said it would not attend a previously scheduled Nov. 27 meeting on the dispute unless Nicaragua removed the troops.

Nicaragua, which denies violating Costa Rican territory, argued that bilateral talks should continue.

Costa Rica claims the dredging has caused environmental damage and has sent in about 70 police officers stationed in Barra de Colorado, a town near the disputed area. Costa Rica doesn’t have an army.

The dispute drew in Google last week when the Nicaraguan official in charge of the dredging project said in an interview with the Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion that he used Google’s map system to decide where the work should be done.

Daniel Helft, director of public policies for Google Latin America, acknowledged last week that the company has found “an inaccuracy in the shaping of the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua and is working to update the information as quickly as possible.”

However, Helft also criticized Nicaragua for relying on Google’s map service to make sensitive decisions.

“Although Google maps are of high quality and Google works constantly to improve and update existing information, in no way can they be used for the military decisions between two countries,” Helft said in a statement. “It’s unthinkable to rely on a product directed at consumers and business to make military decisions.”

The Costa Rican government said it has contacted Google to demand the map be fixed. The Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Google insisting it leave the map alone.

Enrique Castillo, the Costa Rican ambassador to the OAS, welcomed Insulza’s proposals and said both countries should respond within two days.

Nicaraguan Ambassador Denis Moncada did not comment on whether the troops would be withdrawn but insisted that “Nicaragua has not violated or pretends to violate the sovereignty of our neighbor Costa Rica.”

(This version corrects last name of Nicaraguan ambassador to Moncada.)

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