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Venezuela Disappointed Over Cancellation of Chavez Mediation in Colombia


Venezuela says it is disappointed with Colombia's decision to end President Hugo Chavez's mediation with Colombian leftist rebels, who have several high-profile hostages in their custody.

Officials in Caracas issued a statement Thursday, saying they accept the sovereign decision by Colombia, but called it "regrettable."

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced the end of the talks between his country's main rebel group, the FARC, and President Chavez in a statement Wednesday.

The statement said the Venezuelan leader violated an agreement with Mr. Uribe not to speak directly with the head of Colombia's armed forces, General Mario Montoya. President Chavez had spoken to the general to discuss the hostages.

Colombia, however, says it will continue seeking what it calls a "humanitarian solution" that will lead to their release.

Colombia's sudden decision prompted an appeal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy not to end the go-between role Mr. Chavez assumed in August.

A Sarkozy spokesman said the French leader believes Mr. Chavez has the best chance of securing the release of the hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt. Mr. Chavez and Mr. Sarkozy met earlier this week in Paris to discuss the plight of hostages like Betancourt, who was kidnapped in February 2002.

Betancourt was running for the Colombian presidency when she and her campaign manager, Clara Rojas, were abducted and taken into the jungle.

Betancourt has not been heard from since 2003. There is no word on the fate of Rojas.

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

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