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Chavez Says He Has International Support to Ease Colombian Rebel Conflict


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that he has international support for a proposal that would ease Colombia's long-running conflict with its main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Mr. Chavez did not give specifics of his proposal, but he said that he had the endorsements of the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and France.

Mr. Chavez said that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has not endorsed the proposal.

The Venezuelan president made his announcement one day after the FARC handed over four hostages to a Venezuelan delegation.

FARC is believed to be holding about 750 hostages.

Mr. Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have worked together in the past to negotiate the release of hostages.

Mr. Uribe ended Mr. Chavez's formal role in the mediations late last year amid accusations that the Venezuelan president was meddling in Colombian affairs.

One hostage released Wednesday, Eladio Perez, said former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, held for years by the FARC, is very sick and is being treated badly by the rebels.

Perez also said three American captives Keith Stansell, Marc Consalves and Thomas Howes are suffering physically and psychologically. He said the rebels have threatened to hold the Americans for the equivalent of the 60 year sentence a U.S. court handed to a FARC commander, Simon Trinidad, earlier this year.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been working to free Ingrid Betancourt, praised Wednesday's hostage release and called for the liberation of all captives.

Last month, Mr.Chavez mediated the release of two female politicians who had been held by the FARC.

Mr. Chavez has called for the United States and others to remove the rebel group from lists of terrorist organizations.

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

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