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US: Captured Files Closely Tie Venezuela to Colombian Rebels

U.S. intelligence officials say documents seized by Colombian forces during a raid on FARC rebels show that Venezuela has deeper ties with the rebels than previously thought.

The computer files found on the laptop of a Colombian guerrilla leader in March indicate that officials in the Venezuelan government met with leaders of the FARC. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has denied any link to the rebels and has rejected the computer files as fake.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the captured files indicate Venezuela offered to help arm the rebels, possibly with rocket-propelled grenades and ground-to-air missiles.

Accusations that Venezuela was linked to Colombia's leftist rebels surfaced after the laptop computer was found during a raid by Colombia on a rebel camp inside Ecuador.

FARC leader Raul Reyes was killed in the raid, which sparked tensions in the region when Venezuela and Colombia mobilized forces on their border.

Thousands of electronic documents on the computer confirm that Mr. Chavez sympathizes with the FARC rebels. However, Venezuela rejects accusations that it helped the FARC rebels.

The FARC is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal says the latest findings from the computer files could increase pressure on the Bush Administration to label Venezuela as a sponsor of terrorism. However, such a move would mean economic sanctions placed on one of the biggest oil suppliers to the U.S.

For more than four decades, the FARC and a smaller rebel group have been fighting the Colombian government in a conflict that has left thousands dead.

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