Chavez sees no reconciliation with Colombia's Uribe

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CARACAS, Nov 27 (Reuters) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he saw no reconciliation with Colombia's Alvaro Uribe after the two leaders exchanged barbs over Chavez's suspended role in talks to free rebel hostages.

His remarks were the latest broadside against Colombia after Uribe canceled Chavez's efforts to broker a deal with Colombian guerrillas to release hostages held for years, including a French-Colombian politician and three Americans.

Over the weekend, Chavez said he had ''frozen'' relations with Colombia and accused Uribe of lying in the dispute, which the left-wing Venezuelan leader said could affect the billion in annual trade between the two countries.

''When heads of state get to this point, reconciliation is impossible,'' Chavez told a local program early yestrday, according to VTV state television. ''For me, we will have to wait for a new government.'' But Chavez said he still favored a ''normal flow'' of diplomatic and commercial ties between the two countries.

Colombia officials said yesterday they were unsure what Chavez intended by ''freezing'' relations, although business groups were worried about an impact on trade from the diplomatic spat.

''We don't know what this will mean,'' Colombian Commerce Minister Luis Guillermo Plata told reporters. ''We will have to see how this develops.'' Uribe and Chavez have maintained pragmatic ties despite ideological differences. But the hostage dispute has fueled the worst tensions since 2005 when Caracas recalled its envoy after bounty hunters snatched a Colombian rebel inside Venezuela.

Colombia in August had invited Chavez to try to broker an agreement with the Marxist FARC rebels over their hostages. His left-wing credentials had fueled hope he could bring the FARC to the negotiating table.

But Uribe appeared to grow frustrated with Chavez's handling of the delicate negotiations. Colombia ended the efforts, saying Chavez broke with agreed protocol by speaking to the head of Colombia's army without consulting Uribe.

Uribe on Sunday said Chavez had sided with the guerrillas in the mediation and accused him of fomenting an ''expansionist'' project in Latin America.

A self-styled revolutionary, Chavez has used his country's vast oil wealth to promote his 21st-century socialism as the antidote to US free-market policies, while Uribe has been one of Washington's staunchest allies in South America.

Reuters AK VP0712

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