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Colombia, US plotting invasion: Chavez

Caracas, January 26, 2008

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the government of Colombia was plotting with the United States to attack Venezuela, even as Colombia hosted US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday.

"I accuse the government of Colombia of plotting a conspiracy, acting as a pawn of the North American empire, of plotting a military provocation against Venezuela," Chavez told reporters at a news conference.

The leftist Chavez has frequently accused the US of plotting his ouster, and is currently mired in a diplomatic dispute with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe that has pushed bilateral relations to their lowest level in years.

"So I see it as very difficult for us to normalize (relations) under these circumstances. Unfortunately, everything suggests things will continue getting worse," he said.

Chavez has frequently said the presence of US troops in Colombia taking part in anti-narcotics operations represents a military threat to Venezuela.

Rice is visiting the pro-Washington Uribe in Colombia to promote a free trade deal with the United States.

Chavez, a close ally of Cuba's Fidel Castro, has frequently described free trade deals as efforts by the United States to control smaller countries.

Venezuela withdrew its ambassador to Colombia after Uribe pushed Chavez out of negotiations with a leftist rebel group over the release of hostages.

Chavez later helped secure the release of two women politicians that had been kidnapped by the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, but on Friday he said his conflict with Uribe had made him pessimistic about brokering the release of other hostages.

"(On) the issue of the people in the hands of the FARC, unfortunately, I see the horizon completely dark," he said.-Reuters




Tags: US | plot | rice | Chavez | Colombia | invasion | accuse |

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