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Troops rescue Ecuador's president

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuadorean soldiers firing automatic weapons and concussion grenades rescued President Rafael Correa late Thursday from a hospital where he was trapped most of the day by police rebelling over a cut in benefits.

At least one security force member was wounded in the 35-minute operation, and the government said at least one person was killed and six injured in clashes earlier in the day outside the hospital between Correa's supporters and insurgent police.

Correa, 47, told cheering supporters from the balcony of the Carondelet palace after being spirited away from the hospital at top speed in an SUV that the uprising was more than a simple police protest.

"There were lots of infiltrators, dressed as civilians and we know where they were from," he shouted. But he did not blame anyone specifically.

Correa was trapped in the hospital for more than 12 hours after being treated for a tear-gassing that nearly asphyxiated him during a confrontation with hundreds of angry police officers who also shoved him and sprayed him with water.

Correa expressed thanks from the balcony to all his supporters who went to the hospital and "were ready to die to defend democracy."

The violence began when hundreds of police angry over the new civil service law plunged this oil-exporting South American country into chaos, roughing up and tear-gassing Correa, shutting down airports and blocking highways in a nationwide strike.

At the hospital, Correa had vowed to leave either "as president or as a corpse." He also negotiated with some of the insurrectionists, but the outcome of those talks was unclear.

Hours before the rescue, the armed forces chief, Gen. Ernesto Gonzalez, declared the military's loyalty to Correa. He called for "a re-establishment of dialogue, which is the only way Ecuadoreans can resolve our differences."

But Gonzalez also called for the law that provoked the unrest to be "reviewed or not placed into effect so public servants, soldiers and police don't see their rights affected."

The law, which Congress approved on Wednesday, must be published before it takes effect and that has not happened.

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