The current tensions between the two countries were sparked by Bogota's claims that Venezuela was harbouring some 1,500 Colombian rebels, an allegation strongly denied by Caracas.

On Friday, Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, ordered troops to deploy to the border and accused Uribe of being "capable of anything".

'Quiet deployment'

"We've deployed military units, air force, infantry, but quietly because we don't want to upset anybody, the population," Chavez told state-run VTV television in a telephone interview on Friday.

But he did not say how many troops and exactly what military ordinance was involved in the move.

"This has become a threat of war and we don't want war," added Chavez, who had also threatened to cut off oil supplies to the United States if it backed an attack by Colombia, its chief ally in the region.

Last Sunday, Chavez cancelled a trip to Cuba, claiming the risk of a Colombian attack had never been greater.

The Colombian Air Force on Friday meanwhile said it would set up an air base in Yopal, in eastern Casanares department, to keep an eye over the border area with Venezuela and take on Colombian rebel forces in the region.

The air base will also be tasked with protecting crude oil installations in the region and with "fighting the different drug trafficking groups in that part of the Colombian territory," the air force statement said.

Relations between Colombia and Venezuela have been strained in the recent past.

Last November, Chavez broke off diplomatic relations with his neighbour over a US-Colombian military base agreement he said was a threat to  regional stability.