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Colombian Guerrillas Propose Talks on Conflict

Colombia's largest leftist rebel group has released a videotaped message proposing talks with the government of incoming President Juan Manuel Santos to find a political settlement to the country's internal conflict.

The head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Alfonso Cano, issued the proposal Friday in a 36-minute videotape released Friday. Cano said the group known as FARC continues to be determined to find political solutions to the conflict.

Cano also criticized a controversial U.S.-Colombian agreement that gives the United States access to seven Colombian bases for anti-drug operations. Colombia is Washington's closest ally in Latin America and has received billions of dollars in mostly military aid during President Alvaro Uribe's tenure, which ends August 7.

There was no immediate response from President-elect Santos, who has pledged to continue Mr. Uribe's security policies. The FARC has been at war with the Colombian government for 46 years, but Mr. Uribe's government has made progress in battling the guerrillas in recent years.

Colombia, the European Union and the United States have designated the FARC as a terrorist organization.

The FARC's proposal comes amid a diplomatic dispute between Colombia and Venezuela over allegations that Colombian rebels are hiding in the neighboring country.

On Thursday, Colombia and Venezuela went before a group of South American foreign ministers to air grievances stemming from Bogota's accusations. The meeting in Ecuador involved members of the Union of South American Nations, or UNASUR.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez severed ties with Colombia last week after Colombia went before the Organization of American States' permanent council in Washington to present photographs, maps, coordinates and videos it said show 1,500 guerrillas hiding inside Venezuela.

Venezuela said the items presented do not provide any solid evidence of a guerrilla presence there.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.