Chavez says mediation breakoff hurts Colombia ties

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CARACAS, Nov 24 (Reuters) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said today his abrupt firing this week by his Colombian counterpart as a mediator in hostage talks with rebels has damaged ties with the South American neighbor.

''Now I cannot trust (Colombia). The trust has gone and that's serious for bilateral relations and it certainly will affect ties with Colombia, I have no doubt about that,'' Chavez said in an interview on state television.

President Alvaro Uribe ended Chavez's role yesterday in a terse, late-night statement accusing the talkative Venezuelan of breaking an accord between the two men by speaking directly to one of his generals about the hostages.

For months, Chavez had worked to persuade Marxist FARC rebels to release dozens of hostages, including a French-Colombian politician, Ingrid Betancourt, and three US defense contractors held since 2003 in secret jungle camps.

While there was little concrete progress, US foe Chavez did win international praise for his efforts to broker talks, particularly from France.

The Venezuelan leader is also embroiled in a diplomatic spat with Spain, threatening to review all ties after the king told him to ''shut up'' at a summit where Chavez repeatedly called a former prime minister a fascist.

Chavez initially reacted with restraint to conservative US ally Uribe, who burnished his tough-guy image by ejecting the leftist firebrand from the talks.

On Thursday, Chavez said he disagreed with Uribe, complaining the Colombian leader had not consulted him before announcing the move.

But he also accepted the decision and even offered to try again should Uribe change his mind.

But live on a television program that stretched into the early today, Chavez made clear the disagreement rose to the level of a bilateral dispute.

The forum for delivering his comments -- a little-watched, often humorous TV program -- was typical of Chavez's informal, talkative style. He repeatedly drew Colombian complaints during the mediation by revealing negotiating positions at live public events.


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