On a four-day visit to Venezuela, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has failed to bring government and opposition to the negotiating table. But he remains optimistic about the prospects for dialogue.

Mr. Carter was invited to Venezuela by the government of President Hugo Chavez. And for the opposition, which is demanding Mr. Chavez's resignation, that in itself was reason for suspicion.

Opposition parties, which describe the Chavez government as both incompetent and autocratic, would rather see mediation by the Organization of American States (OAS). And they have declined Mr. Carter's invitation to meet face-to-face with President Chavez.

At a press conference Tuesday, Mr. Carter said he was disappointed with the refusal saying the opposition parties have missed a chance to ease the country's political crisis.

But Mr. Carter said progress had been made as he unveiled a new proposal, which would give the OAS a technical rather than a mediation role.

The former U.S. president said the government had made "encouraging and beneficial moves" such as recognizing the legitimacy of the opposition-led labor confederation, the CTV.

One opposition leader, Felipe Mujica of the Movement to Socialism, said the Carter proposal could not be ruled out. In the polarized atmosphere of Venezuelan politics, even this cautious statement may be regarded as progress of a kind.