Chavez, Uribe end dispute

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Colombian leader Alvaro Uribe have buried their acrimonious differences over a captured Colombian rebel.

    The two leaders have agreed to restart stalled trade deals

    At a meeting on Tuesday - the first between the two presidents since the December arrest of rebel Rodrigo Granda - the two leaders agreed to boost security cooperation and restart stalled trade deals.

    "We have turned the page now to settle what was left undone, speed up accords that were delayed or halted and clear up things that were confused," Chavez said at a press conference with Uribe.

    Chavez had recalled his Bogota envoy and frozen trade projects after accusing Colombia of violating Venezuelan sovereignty by paying bounty hunters to kidnap Granda from Caracas.

    Although the two countries had agreed last month to end the dispute, a face-to-face meeting between Chavez and Uribe was delayed after the Colombian president got an ear infection.

    Mending ties

    The two governments agreed to work on better communication, increase military cooperation and restart commerce agreements, including construction of a cross-border gas pipeline.

    "We have turned the page now to settle what was left undone, speed up accords that were delayed or halted and clear up things that were confused"

    Hugo Chavez,
    Venezuelan president

    Trade between Venezuela and Colombia, which reached $4.2 billion last year, slipped 51% after the dispute.

    Chavez had accused the United States of masterminding Granda's capture and demanded Uribe apologise. Colombia asked how Granda was able to attend a left-wing conference in Caracas and get a Venezuelan passport.

    Granda has been dubbed the foreign minister of Colombia's largest rebel group - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

    At the meeting, Chavez handed Uribe pills given to him by Cuban President Fidel Castro for his recent ear infection.

    "Our country is not a haven for guerrillas, terrorists or drug traffickers," Chavez said. "The US has no need to worry, we are not going to invade them."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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