Page last updated at 21:59 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 22:59 UK

Colombia's Uribe calls off vote

Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe
Mr Uribe and his government have denied offering bribes to lawmakers

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has decided not to call a referendum to determine if there should be a new presidential poll.

He had said he would seek a repeat of the 2006 vote, in which he was re-elected amid a bribery scandal.

The Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional amendment that cleared the way for Mr Uribe to run for a second term was tainted by corruption.

Mr Uribe's popularity has risen after the rescue of 15 rebel-held hostages.

"We are not going to call a referendum," Uribe's Interior Minister, Fabio Valencia, said.

Mr Uribe is leaving open the possibility of running for a third term in 2010 - which would require another constitutional change.

His supporters are already gathering signatures in support of a bill which would allow him to run for re-election.

Bribery investigation

Mr Uribe's approval ratings shot to 91% in Colombia after the rescue operation that freed French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 14 fellow hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

He has been dogged by bribery allegations dating back to 2004, when a constitutional change approved by Congress eliminated the rule limiting Colombia's presidents to one term in office.

Last month the Supreme Court sentenced former Congress member Yidis Medina to nearly four years of house arrest after she said senior government members offered her supporters jobs if she voted for the re-election bill.

Ms Medina went public when the government officials did not keep all their promises.

Congress is investigating if Mr Uribe was directly involved in the bribery.

Mr Uribe, under whom crime has fallen and the economy has grown, is popular at home and won re-election in 2006 by a wide margin.

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