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Powell: Carter's Proposals Are  'Best Path Available' to End Venezuelan Crisis - 2003-01-25

Secretary of State Colin Powell joined Friday foreign ministers or senior envoys from Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Portugal and Spain in a Washington meeting aimed at supporting efforts by the Organization of American States (OAS), to mediate an end to the political crisis in Venezuela.

The informal "Friends of Venezuela" group met behind closed doors at OAS headquarters in Washington. But in a text of his remarks released here, Mr. Powell said the situation in the oil-rich South American country is "grave" and growing worse by the day.

He again underscored U.S. support for the mediation efforts of OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria who has been working on the issue non-stop for more than two months, and was to return to Venezuela after the meeting.

Mr. Powell said the two proposals tabled in recent days by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter for an electoral solution to the crisis represent "the best path available" to Venezuelans, and urged embattled President Hugo Chavez and his opponents to agree to one of them.

He said the "Friends" should send high-level representatives to Caracas as soon as possible to work with Mr. Gaviria, and said once the sides have agreed on a political process the six-nation group should set up a mechanism to monitor and ensure full implementation of the agreement.