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Colombia Will Not Recall Ambassador to Venezuela


Colombia says it will not recall its envoy from Venezuela, even though Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered his ambassador home from Bogota in a dispute over Mr. Chavez's efforts to free hostages held by Colombian rebels.

Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo said Tuesday that his government will continue to monitor the situation.

Earlier, Venezuela said it had recalled its ambassador to Bogota Pavel Rondon in order to "carry out an exhaustive evaluation of bilateral relations."

President Chavez and his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, have exchanged harsh words in recent days, after Mr. Uribe dropped Mr. Chavez as a mediator in talks to swap prisoners for hostages held by Colombian rebels.

On Sunday, Mr. Chavez said he was freezing relations with Colombia's government. He accused President Uribe of "spitting in Venezuela's face" while he, Mr. Chavez, was working to get Colombia on the road to peace.

Mr. Uribe, in turn, alleged that the Venezuelan leader was not interested in peace but in Colombia becoming the victim of a terrorist government of the FARC rebels - Colombia's main guerrilla group.

Last week, Mr. Uribe said he ended President Chavez's mediation because the Venezuelan leader violated a pledge not to speak directly with the head of Colombia's armed forces, General Mario Montoya.

Colombia had conditionally offered to permit a meeting between Mr. Chavez and the leader of the FARC, if the rebels unilaterally freed a group of hostages and committed to releasing the rest, including three Americans.

The FARC is demanding the release of rebels held in government prisons, in return for freeing 45 hostages, including French - Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and the three Americans. She has not been heard from since 2003.

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

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