Venezuela and Colombia to talk amid tension

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Venezuela and Colombia to talk amid tension

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Venezuela’s foreign minister is to meet the new Colombian government after it takes office in a week’s time, despite the stand-off between the two countries.

President Hugo Chavez said on Friday he was sending troops to the border, arguing that Colombia had been planning an attack.

But the government in Bogota strongly denied the accusation.

“Colombia has never thought of attacking our brothers in Venezuela,” said presidential spokesman Mauricio Velasquez. “Colombia has accessed the channels of international law and will continue doing so to make the Venezuelan government comply with the obligation not to shelter Colombian terrorists.”

That charge, that Venezuela had been harbouring Colombian rebel camps, prompted Chavez to sever diplomatic ties. Bogota has also flatly denied the Venezuelan leader’s claim that a Colombian aircraft had violated his country’s airspace.

Tensions have been rising since Bogota signed a controversial deal with Washington last year, allowing the US military use of several Colombian airbases. US forces were originally sent to tackle drug-trafficking, but both countries said the agreement was also aimed at fighting terrorism.

Some of Colombia’s other neighbours have also been concerned at the US military presence, but Hugo Chavez has been by far the most hostile.

Recent mediation efforts at a meeting of South American countries failed to resolve the crisis.