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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 January, 2005, 23:42 GMT
Colombia 'ready to end crisis'
President Hugo Chavez
Chavez has demanded an apology from Uribe
Colombia's president is ready to meet his Venezuelan counterpart to try to end a diplomatic row between the two countries, an aide has said.

Venezuela froze diplomatic and trade links with Colombia on Friday, after Colombia hired mercenaries to capture a guerilla chief on Venezuelan soil.

Venezuela accused Colombia of violating its national sovereignty.

An aide to President Alvaro Uribe said the Colombian leader would discuss the crisis at a regional summit.

President Uribe "is willing to discuss the subject with [Venezuelan] President [Hugo] Chavez face-to-face," Ricardo Galan told the AP news agency.

He said Mr Uribe wanted the meeting to be held in public and in front of other presidents.

Venezuela said business dealings with Bogota will be frozen until it has apologised for the kidnap of Rodrigo Granda, a commander in Colombia's largest left-wing rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

Colombian security forces escort Farc rebel Rodrigo Granda in Bogota
Colombia paid mercenaries to capture Granda
President Chavez told parliament on Friday that he had "ordered all agreements and business with Colombia to be paralysed".

He said a $200m natural gas pipeline project between the two countries would be suspended.

The two countries agreed last year to start work on the pipeline, which would eventually allow Venezuelan fuel access to the Pacific coast and to markets in Asia and the western US.

Oil-producing Venezuela is Colombia's second-largest export market.

Bounty hunters

On Thursday, Venezuela withdrew its ambassador from Bogota - a gesture not reciprocated by Colombia.

Colombian Vice-President Francisco Santos said earlier on Friday that relations with Venezuela remained "very good".

He also defended the operation that led to the capture of Mr Granda, who appeared in Colombian custody in December after disappearing from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

Colombia initially denied claims it had abducted him from foreign soil but later admitted paying bounty hunters to secure his capture.

How ordinary Venezuelans have reacted

Venezuela cuts ties with Colombia
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Colombia rejects 'kidnap' charge
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