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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 January, 2005, 20:30 GMT
Colombia bid to end row rejected
By Iain Bruce
BBC News, Caracas

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
Before the dispute relations had been warming
Venezuela has rejected Colombia's suggestion of a regional summit to resolve the dispute over the kidnapping of a Farc rebel leader in Caracas.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he is ready to talk face-to-face with his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe.

But he said Colombia would first have to apologise for what he is calling a crime against Venezuelan sovereignty.

Venezuela has cut commercial ties with Colombia and recalled its envoy over the affair.

TV appeal

Before his assembled cabinet and with millions of Venezuelans watching on TV, President Hugo Chavez stretched out his hand to the camera and spoke directly to the man he called his friend.

"I do not believe you knew what was going on," he told Alvaro Uribe, but he said the Colombian president must now recognise the crime against Venezuela's sovereignty committed by his officials.

Once that was done, he would welcome direct talks.
Colombian security forces escort Farc rebel Rodrigo Granda in Bogota
Colombia admits paying mercenaries to capture Granda
Without it, the suspension of economic relations declared on Friday would continue.

He said Venezuela would issue an official statement shortly.

The Venezuelan leader said he did not believe the suggestion of a summit with other presidents was appropriate.

He said the bribing of Venezuelan officers to help Colombia kidnap the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) leader Rodrigo Granda in Caracas in December was a bilateral issue.

However, he also made clear he believed the conflict had been engineered by those in both countries and in the United States who want to undermine good relations between the two countries.

The US on Saturday offered its "100% support" for Colombia's actions.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How the row has escalated




SEE ALSO:
Colombia 'ready to end crisis'
15 Jan 05 |  Americas
Venezuela cuts ties with Colombia
14 Jan 05 |  Americas
Colombia rebel arrest row worsens
13 Jan 05 |  Americas
Colombia admits bounty on rebel
12 Jan 05 |  Americas
Colombia rejects 'kidnap' charge
10 Jan 05 |  Americas
Colombia captures rebel 'envoy'
16 Dec 04 |  Americas


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