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Chavez cuts ties with Colombia
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13:48, November 30, 2007

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez broke off relations with Colombia on Wednesday, vowing not to restore ties while President Alvaro Uribe is in power, due to the collapse of mediation talks with leftist rebels.

Uribe, Washington's top ally in South America, last week abruptly canceled Chavez's role as a mediator in negotiations with Colombia's leftist rebels over freeing hostages, sparking a war of words between the two leaders.

After recalling his ambassador in protest, Chavez went a step further on Wednesday, escalating a crisis that he has said could hurt the Andean neighbors' $6 billion bilateral trade.

"I'm telling the world: As long as President Uribe is president of Colombia, I will not have any type of relations with him or with the government of Colombia. I cannot," the leader told a political rally in a state bordering Colombia.

Political analysts said the dispute would likely remain diplomatic without hurting economic ties.

Chavez, one of the world's most vocal anti-US voices, burnished his nationalist credentials before he faces his toughest vote fight to date. Venezuelans cast ballots in a referendum on Sunday on a constitutional overhaul that could allow him to run for re-election indefinitely.

Chavez branded the pro-US Uribe on Tuesday as a "pawn of the empire." Conservative Uribe had refused to withdraw his ambassador in Caracas. He said on Wednesday that Chavez should stop acting emotionally.

"Heads of state should think not about their personal rage and their own vanity, but more about the need to respect the people they represent," Uribe said.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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