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Chavez says he has Colombia proposal, international opinion to force Uribe's hand

Chavez says he has Colombia proposal, international opinion to force Uribe's hand

President Hugo Chavez said Thursday he has a proposal for easing Colombia's long-running conflict and predicted international pressure would force that country's U.S.-allied government to agree to negotiations with rebels.
Chavez offered little explanation about his proposal but said it has been endorsed by presidents including France's Nicolas Sarkozy, Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, and Argentina's Cristina Fernandez.
"All are in agreement except (Alvaro) Uribe," Colombia's president, Chavez said.
Chavez, who on Wednesday received four hostages freed by Colombian rebels, said the proposal involves forming a group of governments that would serve as mediators.
Chavez likened it to the Contadora Group, which was formed in 1983 by Mexico, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela, and successfully mediated between Central American governments and leftist guerrillas.
One of the four politicians whisked out of Colombia's jungles by helicopter, former Rep. Orlando Beltran, said the FARC "has begun to understand" that kidnapping is not acceptable internationally. He and the others thanked Chavez and called for more efforts to secure a broader swap of rebel-held hostages for guerrilla prisoners.
The Venezuelan leader said he was disappointed by the intransigence of Uribe's government.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has proposed trading some 40 remaining high-value captives _ including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. defense contractors _ for hundreds of imprisoned guerrillas.
But the Colombian government and the rebels remain far apart on the conditions for talks.
A Colombian senator who has been a key go-between with the FARC, Piedad Cordoba, appeared with the freed hostages at a news conference and predicted Betancourt would soon be free.
"Very soon we're going to have Ingrid," she said, without elaborating.
The four freed hostages said Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen who was kidnapped in 2002, has recurrent hepatitis B and is very sick.
Chavez earlier announced that he has international support for his initiative in Colombia, though he gave few details.
"There's a proposal that I'm making and is shared by an important number of governments," Chavez said. He predicted "humanitarian sentiment and the current of world opinion are going to make the Colombian oligarchy change its position."
The Venezuelan leader has angered the Uribe government by urging the international community to recognize the rebels as a legitimate armed opposition group, rather than classifying them as terrorists.
Chavez's intervention in Colombia's decades-old conflict has produced the release of six hostages this year, raising the FARC's profile as it seeks to persuade the European Union to remove it from its list of international terrorist groups.
Some of the newly freed hostages urged Colombia to loosen its hardline stance.
"The solution is political, President Uribe," former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez told reporters. He said any attempt at a military rescue, long Uribe's preferred solution, would lead to bloodshed.
Uribe's government has refused the FARC's demand for a New York City-sized temporary safe haven in two western Colombia municipalities as a venue for talks on swapping hostages for imprisoned guerrillas.
Uribe's government has insisted that FARC negotiators not be permitted to carry arms into such a zone _ a deal-breaker for the rebels.


Updated : 2021-06-15 06:38 GMT+08:00