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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 21:55 GMT
Colombia seizes munitions plane
FARC rebels
FARC rebels operate along the Venezuelan border
The Colombian air force says it has intercepted a light plane from Venezuela in Colombian airspace which was carrying an illegal shipment of munitions.

A Colombian air force general said the plane had been forced to land and the pilot, a Venezuelan national, was captured after trying to escape.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Chavez: Denies supporting Colombian rebels
The military says it suspects the ammunition was intended for guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC.

The seizure comes hours after the release of a videotape in Venezuela, revealing apparent contacts between the Venezuelan military and the FARC.

Correspondents say the latest incidents will fuel allegations that the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, is collaborating with the Colombian rebels, accusations he has strongly denied.

Controversial video

Journalists in the Venezuelan capital Caracas released the tape after it was leaked to them by an unnamed military source.

Recorded in June 2000, it shows a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander commending the group's ties with the Venezuelans.


We've begun a process of rapprochement that will undoubtedly have great repercussions along the border and in the country

Ruben Zamora,
FARC field commander

President Chavez has denied backing the FARC, saying contacts with the rebels have been limited to humanitarian issues.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott reports from Bogota that there have long been rumours that Mr Chavez has strong sympathy for the FARC.

The leftist president, seen as a maverick by many, has pursued an independent foreign policy since taking office in 1998, and is a close friend of Cuba's Communist leader, Fidel Castro, among others.

'Rapprochement'

The video shows the rebels handing over a Venezuelan hostage, and a commander - identified as Ruben Zamora of the FARC's 33rd Front - praising relations with the Venezuelan army.

"We've begun a process of rapprochement that will undoubtedly have great repercussions along the border and in the country," Mr Zamora says on the tape.

The journalists who released the tape said it had been given to them by Venezuelan military officials unhappy with the government's links with the FARC.

The controversial video has now been broadcast on television in Venezuela.

See also:

30 Jan 02 | Americas
Stalled Colombia peace talks restart
24 Jan 02 | Americas
FARC demands bilateral truce
07 Jan 02 | Americas
Colombia's most powerful rebels
30 Jan 02 | Americas
Seven killed in arms raid blast
28 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Venezuela
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