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Colombia talks diplomacy as Chavez accuses

world Updated: Jan 27, 2008 09:39 IST

Colombia has rejected the accusations by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that it was planning a military assault on Venezuela, as ties between the two neighbours continued to deteriorate.

On Saturday, Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo said all differences with Venezuela were being handled via "diplomatic channels".

Chavez on Friday accused Bogota of preparing an attack on Venezuela at the behest of the US, and said it would be impossible for the two countries to return to "normal" relations.

"I accuse the government of Colombia of designing a conspiracy, a war provocation against Venezuela, following orders from the US, to force us to give a reply that could spark a war," Chavez said.

The firebrand Chavez - a left-wing populist and vehement critic of the US - has repeatedly clashed with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Last year, Uribe called on Chavez to mediate an exchange of hostages held by leftist Colombian rebels for imprisoned rebels. In November, Uribe abruptly halted the arrangement with Chavez, and relations have since soured badly between Bogota and Caracas.

Chavez on Friday said he was no longer prepared to take on a mediating role in the conflict.