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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 February, 2005, 22:51 GMT
Venezuela kidnap row 'risked war'
By Elliott Gotkine
BBC News, Buenos Aries

Colombian security forces escort Farc rebel Rodrigo Granda in Bogota
Rodrigo Granda's capture in Caracas caused a diplomatic crisis
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez says that a diplomatic spat with Colombia over the capture of a rebel commander in Caracas could have led to war.

He said he now considered the crisis "practically" over.

The dispute arose after Bogota admitted that it paid bounty hunters to capture a Colombian Marxist guerrilla in the Venezuelan capital.

Mr Chavez was speaking on a visit to Argentina where he signed a number of agreements between the two countries.

President Chavez says that the worst diplomatic rift in decades between Venezuela and Colombia has almost been resolved.

He said that Venezuela's ambassador to Bogota - who was recalled when the crisis erupted - had already returned to his post.

Mr Chavez said Thursday's state visit to Caracas by the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe should go some way towards smoothing relations between the two neighbours.

The Venezuelan leader again blamed the United States for provoking the crisis and thanked Cuba's Fidel Castro for mediating to help resolve it.

Sovereignty issue

President Chavez said that by paying bounty hunters to capture a leading left-wing rebel commander in Caracas, Colombia had breached Venezuelan sovereignty.

It did not matter, he said, if it was "Jack the Ripper, Hannibal Lector or the worst mass-murderer in the world", sovereignty had to be respected.

Mr Chavez cut short a visit to Buenos Aires to return home to resolve the crisis with Colombia.

During his 24-hour stay, Mr Chavez signed an agreement with Argentina's President, Nestor Kirchner, to set up a state-owned South American TV channel.

The two countries also extended a deal whereby Venezuela exchanges fuel for Argentine cattle and grain.



SEE ALSO:
Colombia, Venezuela resolve row
29 Jan 05 |  Americas
Venezuela cuts ties with Colombia
14 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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