Chavez and Uribe mend relations

Latin American neighbours discuss trade and energy deals worth about $6 billion.

    The talks were the first one-on-one meeting between Chavez and Uribe since August [AFP]

    The countries are key commercial partners and Uribe says he expects to sign accords to link the Andean neighbours with two new railways.

    It was their first one-on-one meeting since August.

    "We came out refreshed and relieved," Chavez said after four hours of talks at the Paraguana oil refining complex.

    He also pledged co-operation with Colombia in counter-drug efforts.

    Tense relations

    The two have repeatedly clashed over their stances toward the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), but Uribe said "we're brothers"' and gave Chavez a book about South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

    For both presidents, "the interest right now is to lower the level of confrontation and strengthen relations in common areas, especially the economy," Sadio Garavini, an analyst and former Venezuelan diplomat, said.

    Relations were at their lowest point in decades when Colombian troops crossed into Ecuador and killed a rebel commander earlier this year, sparking a dispute between the two countries that spread to include Venezuela.

    Chavez on Friday reiterated his willingness to help mediate in Colombia's four-decade with Farc conflict, but only if invited.

    "We've tried to help in [Colombia's] internal matters only when it's been asked of us,'' he said.

    During a disagreement over Chavez's mediation role with Colombian rebels, the Venezuelan president called Uribe a "pawn of the US empire".

    Colombia, meanwhile, accused Chavez of offering an open-ended loan of at least $250m to Farc, charges bolstered by documents Uribe's government said were retrieved from a laptop at a bombed guerilla camp.

    Chavez denied the accusations which were apparently left unmentioned during Friday's meeting.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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