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Chavez Visits Colombia for Hostage Talks


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has met with his Colombian counterpart, President Alberto Uribe, for talks on brokering a deal to free hostages held by Colombian leftist rebels in guerrilla jungle camps.

Mr. Chavez and Mr. Uribe discussed the hostage issue Friday during a meeting on the outskirts of the Colombian capital, Bogota. Talks covered a proposed swap of 45 hostages held by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for hundreds of imprisoned rebels.

The Venezuelan leader has offered to engage in a dialogue with the FARC, whose hostages include soldiers, police officers, French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

Earlier this week, a spokesman for French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the French leader assured Mr. Chavez in a telephone call of his support to win the release of Betancourt and the other hostages.

The FARC has demanded that Colombian troops demilitarize an area in the southwestern part of the country ahead of any talks, but President Uribe has refused any territorial concessions.

President Chavez has offered Venezuela as an alternative site for talks. The FARC has welcomed Mr. Chavez's efforts but says any hostage handover has to occur in Colombia.

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

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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