CARACAS, Nov 25 (Reuters) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez today accused Colombian President Alvaro Uribe of lying in a dispute over Chavez's mediation in hostage talks, adding that the spat may harm commercial ties between the neighboring countries.
Uribe last week cut Chavez out of his role as mediator in negotiations with Colombia's Marxist FARC rebels over releasing hostages taken during Colombia's civil war. He accused Chavez of overstepping his bounds and publicly disclosing elements of private talks.
''President Uribe is lying, and he's lying in a shameless way,'' Chavez said during a televised broadcast.
''Everyone should be on alert with respect to Colombia ...
the companies that Colombians have here, the companies we have over there, commercial relations -- all of that will be damaged.'' Uribe cut Chavez out of the talks upon learning he had spoken with a Colombian general about hostages, but Chavez on Sunday said Uribe was using this as an excuse to avoid seeking a peaceful solution to Colombia's 40-year-old civil war.
The negotiations were focused on efforts to get the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to free about 50 key hostages they are holding in exchange for jailed fighters.
Among the FARC's high-profile captives are Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen captured in 2002 while campaigning for the presidency, and three Americans caught on a counter-narcotics mission in 2003.
Chavez this month said Spanish businesses with investment in Venezuela would suffer from a diplomatic spat caused by Spanish King Juan Carlos telling Chavez to ''shut up'' during a summit in Chile.
Reuters AK VP0310