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Colombian, Venezuelan Presidents Meet to Mend Ties

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, have met in an effort to repair a diplomatic break over Venezuela's alleged support of leftist rebels in Colombia that has stalled trade and fueled worries about potential violence.

The two leaders held talks Tuesday at a colonial-era estate in Santa Marta, Colombia, where 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar died. Mr. Chavez, who views Bolivar as the inspiration for his socialist movement, said upon arrival that the two countries must build peace and unity whatever the cost.

Mr. Santos, who predicted at his inauguration three days ago that talks with the Venezuelan president would be "frank and direct," said Tuesday the two leaders were looking to restore relations between, as he put it, brother nations.

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused Venezuela of supporting rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Mr. Chavez criticized Mr. Uribe for waging a military campaign against the rebels that threatened the entire region.

On July 22, Venezuela severed ties with Colombia after Bogota went before the Organization of American States in Washington to present photographs, maps, coordinates and videos it said show 1,500 guerrillas hiding inside Venezuela. Mr. Chavez denied the charge, saying the items did not provide any solid evidence of a guerrilla presence there.

Mr. Santos served as defense minister under Mr. Uribe and has clashed before with Venezuela's president. But the U.S.- and British-educated economist eventually began to distance himself from Mr. Uribe and reached out to Mr. Chavez, emphasizing his interest in mending relations between the two Andean neighbors.

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