French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged his Colombian counterpart to resume negotiations with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is trying to free hostages held by Colombian leftist rebels.

A spokesman for Mr. Sarkozy Thursday said the French leader hopes Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will continue discussions with Mr. Chavez.  The spokesman said Mr. Sarkozy believes President Chavez has the best chance of securing the release of the hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt. 

Mr. Uribe announced the end of talks between his country's main rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC and President Chavez in a statement Wednesday. 

The statement said Mr. Chavez's role as a mediator was canceled because he violated an agreement with Mr. Uribe not to speak directly with the head of the Colombian armed forces, General Mario Montoya. 

The Venezuelan leader spoke to General Montoya to get information about 45 hostages being held by the FARC.

Mr. Uribe's decision is a major setback in efforts to secure the release of the hostages, including three U.S. contractors.  He had given conditional approval for Mr. Chavez to meet with FARC leader Manuel Marulanda in Caguan in southern Colombia. 

The FARC is demanding the release of rebels held in government prisons in return for freeing the hostages.

President Sarkozy has made freeing the French-Colombian Betancourt one of his foreign policy priorities.  Betancourt was running for the Colombian presidency when she and her campaign manager, Clara Rojas, were abducted in 2002 and taken into the jungle. 

Mr. Chavez and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba began holding talks with FARC leaders back in August. 

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