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Chavez for international mediation for Colombia PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 March 2008

Caracas, Reuters - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed on Thursday creating an international mediating group to negotiate the release of hostages held by Colombian rebels, a day after he brokered the freeing of four captives.

Chavez, who is in a diplomatic dispute with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe over his mediation with the rebels, said France and the leftist governments of Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador backed his idea to include more nations in the talks.

"Everybody is in agreement except for Uribe," Chavez told state television.

Despite the leftist Venezuelan's success this year in persuading Marxist FARC guerrillas to allow two operations that have freed a total of six hostages, political analysts doubt the rebels will continue to free captives without concessions.

But Chavez's suggestion could create new impetus in talks, which aim to free dozens of high-profile hostages held for years in dire conditions, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

After initially working closely with Chavez over the hostages, the conservative Uribe ended his neighbor's formal role late last year, accusing him of using the mediation to meddle in Colombian affairs.

But international pressure remains intense over the dozens of hostages still in jungle camps, especially after those who have been freed described how the captives are often ill and sometimes chained to trees or made to walk barefoot.

Uribe, who is popular in Colombia for his U.S.-backed offensive that has forced the guerrillas from large parts of the South American country, has so far refused to meet FARC demands that could lead to wider release.

Chavez -- and some of the freed hostages -- criticized Uribe as inflexible.

"Uribe is going to have to change his position because we are going to make him change it," Chavez said.

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