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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Carter's Venezuela bid fails
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez was briefly ousted from power
Former US President Jimmy Carter has failed to broker a face-to-face meeting between Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and the country's leading opposition parties.

After a four-day mission to Caracas, Mr Carter spoke of progress but also expressed great disappointment at the decision by opposition leaders to boycott talks with Mr Chavez.

Opposition groups said the talks lacked a clear agenda and demanded that the Organisation of American States (OAS) act as principal mediator.

Former US President Jimmy Carter
Carter's mediation bid was doomed
In a statement to reporters after meeting Mr Chavez, Mr Carter said the president had agreed to mediation by the United Nations or the OAS.

In April, rebels in the military and civilian leaders forced President Chavez from office for 48 hours before loyal troops restored him to power.

Government-sponsored reconciliation talks began after the coup, but those talks have faltered.

Leading participants abandoned the negotiations saying that complaints to President Chavez fell on deaf ears.

Opposition grows

Mr Chavez hoped that the former US president could rescue those talks, but Mr Carter's efforts had little chance of success, correspondents say.

The opposition had already described his mission as a ploy by Mr Chavez to save his embattled government.

Mr Chavez's popularity has slid since his landslide election in 1998 amid growing calls for his resignation.

The country's main opposition parties say he must leave office before the end of his term in 2007.

They have filed lawsuits and are organising a referendum to cut short Mr Chavez's term.

Business leaders and some members of the military blame Mr Chavez for provoking class tensions with left-wing rhetoric and for plunging the oil-rich nation into recession.


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