Chavez plans Colombia hostage talks

Venezuela's president attempts to broker exchange of Farc prisoners for hostages.

    Chavez, left, said he would meet a
    Farc delegation in Venezuela [AFP]

    Scores of politician police and soldiers are being held by the Farc in Colombia's in remote jungle regions, including Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician who was seized in 2002.

    "It's the first time I see there could be a small light at the end of the tunnel," Juan Carlos Lecompte, Betancourt's husband, said ahead of Chavez's announcement.

    Chavez said he had received direct communication from Farc on Friday morning after acting as a mediator between the group and Uribe's government.

    'Much optimism'

    He did not give details of when he planned to host talks with a Farc delegation in Caracas, but said he was leaving for home "with much optimism".

    Talks between the hostage-takers and the government have previously stalled over Farc's demands for a demilitarised zone in southern Colombia where an exchange can take place as well as the release of two of its members held in the US.

    Although Uribe initially accepted a proposal by France, Switzerland and Spain for a safe haven, Uribe refuses to pull back troops under Farc conditions, saying it would allow them to regroup and rearm.

    Raul Reyes, a senior Farc leader, told an Argentine newspaper earlier this week that he welcomed Chavez's involvement but insisted on the demilitarised zone and an exchange of hostages inside Colombia.

    Uribe is a close ally of the United States has received billions of dollars in military aid from Washington, but he has maintained ties with Chavez despite their differences.

    Chavez also said that he would also host talks between the Colombian government and the country's second-largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

    The two sides have been talking in Cuba, but  negotiations have recently stalled.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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