France backs Chavez-Farc talks

Paris says Chavez is the best chance to secure the release of hostages.

    Betancourt's friends and relatives have expressed full confidence in Chavez [AFP] 

    A day earlier, Chavez held talks in Paris with Sarkozy on his efforts to secure the release of French-Colombian politician Betancourt, who has been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) since 2002.


    Outspoken left-wing leader Chavez was invited in August by Alvaro Uribe the president of Colombia, to broker the exchange of the hostages for guerrillas held in Colombian prisons.


    On Wednesday, Uribe called off the negotiations between Chavez and Farc accusing the Venezuelan leader of overstepping his mandate.


    Chavez, according to Uribe, spoke to Mario Montoya, the Colombian armed services commander, on Wednesday and requested information about the hostages.


    Uribe said that in doing so Chavez had violated an agreement that only Uribe and Chavez would hold discussions between the two neighbouring countries about hostages held by the Farc.


    Venezuela called Uribe’s decision as a regrettable and surprising one.


    High profile hostages


    Farc is holding dozens of high-profile hostages in secret jungle camps.


    "We reiterate our support for the Chavez mediation, and we hope that the dialogue between President Uribe and President Chavez can restart"

    David Martinon, spokesman for Nicolas Sarkozy

    Besides the French citizen, the cocaine-funded guerilla army is also holding three US defence contractors, police officers, former members of Congress and provincial governors.


    "We reiterate our support for the Chavez mediation, and we hope that the dialogue between president Uribe and president Chavez can restart," Martinon said.


    Betancourt's Paris-based support committee, which includes her relatives, said in a statement earlier on Thursday that it had "total confidence" in Chavez, and asked Sarkozy to intervene.


    Chavez had hoped to bring Sarkozy proof that Betancourt is alive, but instead he said he had received a letter from top Farc commander Manuel Marulanda pledging to prove by the end of the year that all the hostages are alive.


    Betancourt has not been heard from since 2003.


    "The meeting that the president had with President Chavez in Paris was certainly incomplete, dissatisfying because we did not get any proof of life," Martinon said.


    "But nevertheless there has been progress, very important messages were passed."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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