Venezuela broke off ties with Colombia last month in the latest swing in their on-again, off-again relationship. The previous Colombian government alleged that the leftist guerrillas it is fighting were hiding in Venezuela, and accused Caracas of aiding them.

Call to disarm

Colombia blames the rebels for killings, kidnappings and drug trafficking along the country's long border with Venezuela. Chavez denies giving sanctuary to the rebels.

Juan Manuel Santos offered to meet Chavez over the diplomatic rift [Reuters]

Chavez on Sunday called for Colombian rebels to lay down their arms, and warned Santos' government not to accuse his country of helping the guerrilla movement. Santos' predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, had accused Chavez's government of sheltering Colombian rebels.

Chavez tried to deflect the accusations by calling on rebels to give up their decades-old armed struggle and seek a negotiated solution.

"The guerrillas should come out in favour of peace. They should release all their hostages," he said during his weekly "Alo Presidente" radio and television show. "They have no future by staying armed."

"Furthermore, they have become an excuse for the [US] empire to intervene in Colombia, and threaten Venezuela from there," he added, a reference to the US military presence in Colombia.