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Colombian Prepares for Inauguration of Juan Manuel Santos


Heads of state and other officials from several countries are gathering in Bogota for Saturday's inauguration of incoming Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Mr. Santos is succeeding President Alvaro Uribe, who will step down after two terms in office. Mr. Uribe has held power since 2002 and during his eight-year tenure, his government made progress in battling the country's armed insurgents.

Officials expected to attend Mr. Santos's inauguration include Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, although Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will not be there. Mr. Chavez broke ties with Colombia last month amid accusations by Bogota, which he denies, that leftist rebels are taking shelter in his country.

The Venezuelan leader, however, has said he hopes for better ties with Mr. Santos, who has vowed to continue Mr. Uribe's tough anti-guerrilla policies.

Mr. Santos served as defense minister under Mr. Uribe for nearly three years and scored key victories against leftist FARC rebels. Under Mr. Santos, Colombian troops killed a FARC leader and freed several high-profile hostages held by the guerrillas, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

Colombia has been mired in a 46-year civil war involving two leftist rebel groups and rightist paramilitaries. Colombia is the United States' closest ally in Latin America and has received about $6 billion in mostly military assistance from Washington.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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