Mexico appeals to International Court of Justice over diplomatic row with Bolivia

Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Deputy Foreign Minister for North America Jesus Seade hold a news conference in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's government said on Thursday it was appealing to the International Court of Justice to ensure its diplomatic facilities were respected in Bolivia following its decision to grant asylum to nine people there.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told a regular news conference that Mexico wanted the court, based in The Hague, to mediate in the dispute, which has rumbled on between the two Latin American countries this week.

Since Monday, Mexico has accused Bolivia's government of ramping up the police presence outside the Mexican embassy in La Paz and of intimidating its diplomats.

Ebrard said harassment of his diplomats began after the Mexican embassy gave asylum to nine people and sought safe conduct passes for them. Days later, Bolivia's government said it had issued arrest warrants for four of them, he added.

None have been granted the passes, he said.

Ebrard said Mexico had had "good support" from the international community in its dispute with the new conservative government of Bolivia, which took power last month when long-serving leftist president Evo Morales resigned.

Morales stepped down under pressure from the Bolivian armed forces after a presidential election that the Organization of American States (OAS) said was rigged in his favor.

He quickly accepted an offer of political asylum from Mexico, putting a strain on relations between Mexico the new administration headed by interim President Jeanine Añez, a former conservative senator and opponent of Morales.

Morales left Mexico this month and is now in Argentina.

Ebrard said he expected the weight of international opinion to fall behind Mexico, and likened the attitude taken by what he called the "de facto" Bolivian government to military-led regimes in power in Latin America during the 1970s.

Standing alongside Ebrard, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist ally of Morales, said he hoped sense would prevail in the dispute with Bolivia.

Bolivia has accused Mexico of dragging its heels in recognizing the new administration and has said it would respect diplomatic privilege and not enter Mexico's embassy.


(Reporting by Dave Graham and Adriana Barrera; editing by John Stonestreet and Steve Orlofsky)