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Chavez rejects mediators in dispute with Colombia

RIA Novosti

14:32 07/08/2009 MOSCOW, August 7 (RIA Novosti) - President Hugo Chavez has ruled out involving mediators in the resolution a diplomatic spat between Venezuela and Colombia over the deployment of additional U.S. troops at Colombian bases.

Chavez met on Thursday with former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, and some Latin American media saw it as an indication that the Colombian politician could act as a mediator in the current conflict.

"There will be no mediators. Mediation is not possible. The only way to calm the situation is for Colombia to refuse to give its territory to the United States," Chavez told reporters.

The United States and Colombia are currently holding talks that could lead to a boost in U.S. troop numbers at Colombian bases as part of a 10-year deal to help the country tackle its drug trafficking and terrorist problem.

Chavez has condemned Colombia's plan to host more U.S. troops as a direct threat to Venezuela and regional security. He has threatened to sever diplomatic relations with Columbia and to cut back on imports of Colombian goods.

"The Yankee empire is scheming to provoke a war between Venezuela and Colombia," Chavez said.

In line with the terms of the expected agreement, the United States will have the right to use seven military bases in Columbia.

However, both U.S. and Colombian officials have said the agreement would not increase U.S. troop numbers beyond the 800 currently permitted by U.S. law.

Under Plan Colombia - U.S. legislation aimed at curbing drug smuggling by supporting a variety of anti-narcotics activities in the Latin American country - Washington has invested over $6 billion into Colombian economy.

Meanwhile, Chavez reiterated on Venezuelan television on Thursday that he was hoping to conclude a deal with Russia on the purchase of a large number of main battle tanks during his visit to Moscow in September.

Venezuela has already spent around $4 billion since 2005 on Russian arms, including helicopters, fighter planes and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

The hard-line leftist leader said he was ready to turn Venezuela into "an impregnable fortress."


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