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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 January, 2005, 23:14 GMT
Venezuela rally over rebel arrest
Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez march in Caracas
Thousands demanded respect for Venezuelan sovereignty
Thousands of Venezuelan government supporters have held a protest march against Colombia in Caracas, as a row between the two neighbours intensifies.

The demonstrators demanded respect for Venezuelan sovereignty, after Colombia admitted it had paid for the capture of a rebel leader on Venezuelan soil.

They also condemned the US, which the Venezuelan government blames for its diplomatic row with Colombia.

Venezuela has recalled its ambassador in Bogota and frozen economic ties.

The protesters chanted pro-Chavez slogans and carried banners that read "Bush: Venezuela Is Not Iraq!" and "Colombia, Stay Out of Venezuela".

The government supporters danced to traditional music that boomed from loudspeakers on trucks, reported the Associated Press news agency.

The protest followed an admission by Colombia - a US ally - that it had paid bounty hunters to capture Rodrigo Granda, a senior Farc rebel leader, in Caracas in December.

Apology demand

Mr Chavez has accused the US of being responsible for the kidnap, by putting pressure on Colombia to isolate Venezuela.

"This provocation came from Washington, it is the latest attempt by the imperialists ... to ruin our relations with Colombia," he said on Sunday.

As well as recalling its envoy to Colombia over the capture, Venezuela has demanded an apology and suspended economic ties.

Colombia has defended the operation that led to Mr Granda's arrest, but denies that its agents were involved in seizing him in Venezuela.

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

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

US Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice said last week that Mr Chavez was a negative force in Latin America.


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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