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Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Thursday, 29 November 2007

Chavez vows no ties with Colombia

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez waves to supporters on Wednesday
Mr Chavez was speaking to supporters in western Venezuela

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez says he will have "no type of relationship" with the Colombian government while it is headed by President Alvaro Uribe.

"I could not, out of dignity," Mr Chavez told supporters in the state of Tachira in western Venezuela.

The Venezuelan government announced on Tuesday it was withdrawing its ambassador to Colombia.

Mr Uribe last week abruptly ended Mr Chavez's efforts to broker a hostage exchange with Colombian rebels.

In response, Mr Chavez said he would freeze Venezuela's bilateral ties with its neighbour and close trading partner.

'Barefaced lies'

Speaking to supporters on Wednesday, Mr Chavez was forthright in his criticism of his Colombian counterpart.

"While President Uribe is president of Colombia I will have no type of relationship with him or with the government in Colombia," he said.

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Mr Uribe was a president "capable of such barefaced lies, [who] disrespects another president that he has called a friend, one that he called on for help".

Mr Chavez accused Mr Uribe, a close US ally, of being a "pawn of the empire".

Relations between the two men seemed close in August - despite their apparent ideological differences - when Mr Uribe enlisted Mr Chavez's help in trying to arrange an exchange of prisoners with rebel-held hostages.

But last week Mr Uribe ended Mr Chavez's involvement, saying it was because the Venezuelan leader was in direct contact with Colombia's army chief despite being told to avoid such action.

Earlier, Mr Uribe appeared to try to calm the situation, saying presidents should put aside their "angers" and "vanities" to get on with their work.

UNFOLDING DISPUTE
5 Aug: Hugo Chavez offers his services to mediate hostages' release
31 Aug: Chavez and Uribe agree on his mediation efforts
9 Nov: Chavez and Uribe meet during regional summit in Chile
20 Nov: Chavez says Uribe told him he is prepared to meet Farc leaders; Uribe sets a 31 December deadline for mediation to work
22 Nov: Uribe ends mediation mission after Chavez is in direct contact with Colombia army chief
26 Nov: Chavez says he is freezing ties with Colombia
27 Nov: Caracas recalls its ambassador to Colombia for consultations
28 Nov: Chavez vows no ties as long as Uribe is president

The increasing strain in bilateral ties comes as proposed constitutional changes championed by President Chavez go to a referendum on Sunday.

BBC Americas analyst Will Grant says some observers believe there is a domestic element to Mr Chavez's moves.

Some opinion polls suggest the reforms may not be approved, although surveys have in the past underestimated the support the president enjoys.

If the row with Colombia is not smoothed over, it could have economic repercussions.

The two nations are each other's second biggest trading partner after the US, with annual bilateral trade running at more than $4bn (2bn).

Colombia exports basic foodstuffs to Venezuela, where government price controls have made much production unprofitable.

The Colombians also export cars to Venezuela, which does not have an automobile manufacturing base.

The two countries are also involved in a major project to build a pipeline so Venezuela can export its oil through Colombia to the Pacific coast.




SEE ALSO
Chavez takes ties to 20-year low
29 Nov 07 |  Americas
Chavez freezes ties with Colombia
27 Nov 07 |  Americas
Colombia tires of Chavez mediation
22 Nov 07 |  Americas
Colombia urged to recall Chavez
22 Nov 07 |  Americas
Deadline for Chavez on Farc talks
20 Nov 07 |  Americas
Chavez meets Colombia Farc rebels
08 Nov 07 |  Americas
Chavez offer on Farc is rejected
12 Sep 07 |  Americas

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