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Presidents' spat renews fears for hostages

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Presidents' spat renews fears for hostages

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What hope now for hostages held in Colombia after Hugo Chavez’s mediation mission was suddenly cut short? For months the Venezuelan President has been trying to broker a deal with leftist rebels, at the invitation of his Colombian counterpart. But Alvaro Uribe has now decided to dispense with Chavez’s services. The Colombian leader’s spokesman said Hugo Chavez talked on the telephone to the head of Colombia’s army, asking him questions about hostages held by the group known as FARC.

This violated President Uribe’s wishes. He had told Chavez not to have direct contact with Colombian military command. The Venezualan leader has just made a high-profile visit to Paris. He told relatives of kidnapped French- Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt that FARC had pledged to provide proof she is alive, by the end of the year.

The decision to drop Chavez has dismayed Betancourt’s family. Her husband, Juan-Carlos Lecompte, criticised President Uribe, accusing him of lacking the political will to resolve the problem and of putting obstacles forward whenever progress is made.

Seized in 2002, while campaigning for the Presidency of Colombia, Betancourt’s case is followed closely in France. President Sarkozy as well as the hostage’s family want Uribe to reverse his decision, to allow President Chavez to continue his mediation efforts.