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Chavez Optimistic About Meeting with Colombian Rebels

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he is close to arranging an initial meeting with Colombian rebels for talks on releasing scores of hostages.

Chavez says his efforts to mediate an exchange of hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are going well and said he expects a meeting to take place in coming days.

Chavez made the comments Friday after meeting in Ballenas with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

The Venezuelan leader has offered to meet with representatives of the FARC to discuss a proposed swap of some 45 hostages in rebel custody.

They include soldiers, police officers, French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

Last month, Colombia rejected an initial request by Venezuela to create a demilitarized zone for the meeting. Colombia has one of the world's highest kidnapping rates.

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

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