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Venezuela's Chavez Meets With Relatives of Colombian Hostages


Relatives of Colombians kidnapped by leftist rebels have met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in an effort to encourage him to try to break a deadlock between the rebels and the Colombian government.

The group met in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, Monday to discuss the plight of the hostages who have been held for years by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The FARC's captives include police officers, soldiers, former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

Mr. Chavez has offered to act as an intermediary between the FARC and the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Mr. Chavez told the group that he is willing to hold talks with FARC leader Manuel Marulanda.

President Chavez is expected to travel to Bogota in the coming days to discuss the hostage issue with Mr. Uribe.

Ingrid Betancourt's mother was part of the delegation in Caracas, along with school teacher Gustavo Moncayo, whose son, a soldier, has been in rebel custody for several years. Moncayo recently walked halfway across Colombia to plead for a prisoner exchange with the rebels.

Colombia has one of the world's highest kidnapping rates.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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