Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Venezuela 'will assist Eta probe' by Spain

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Uruguay
Hugo Chavez says the allegations are part of a US smear campaign

Venezuela says it is willing to assist a Spanish investigation into claims that it supported the Basque separatist group Eta, Spain says.

A Spanish judge has accused Venezuela of aiding Eta and Colombian rebel group Farc, which he says plotted together to kill Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has dismissed the allegations.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Mr Chavez had assured him Venezuela would investigate.

After speaking to President Chavez and Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, Mr Moratinos said: "They committed themselves to co-operate with Spanish authorities to fully clear up this matter."

A Spanish foreign ministry official told Associated Press news agency that Spain would now wait for Venezuela to answer a court request for more information.

He said allegations of collaboration between Eta and Farc were not new, but the idea that Venezuela's government might be involved was.

Mr Chavez dismissed the allegations on television, and suggested they were part of a smear campaign directed by the United States.

"I have no doubt this is orchestrated," Mr Chavez said.

Common ideology

Both Eta and Farc claim to be rooted in left-wing ideology.

Eta has been blamed for more than 820 deaths during its 41-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain.

Farc has been fighting even longer, mounting a major insurgency intended to topple the Colombian government and establish a Marxist-style state.

There have long been allegations of links between Farc and President Chavez's left-wing government in Venezuela.

In 2008 a major diplomatic dispute arose after Colombia accused Venezuela of running arms to Farc. Mr Chavez has strenuously denied any such links.

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