Chavez to visit France to discuss hostages

25th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

25 September 2007, UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will visit France in November to discuss the fate of hostages, including prominent Franco-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt, held by Colombian Marxist rebels, the French President said Monday.

25 September 2007

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will visit France in November to discuss the fate of hostages, including prominent Franco-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt, held by Colombian Marxist rebels, the French President said Monday.

"Mr. Chavez will visit France in November. I have spoken with him by phone three or four times over the past 15 days," President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

Chavez has offered to mediate between Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the Marxist rebels who are holding 45 hostages including Betancourt, who has dual citizenship, and three Americans.

"France's obsession is to have Betancourt returned to her family as soon as possible," he added.

The French leader on Sunday had lunch in New York with Melanie Delloye, Betancourt's daughter, to review the case of the hostages.

Sarkozy has taken a personal interest in winning the release of Betancourt, who was kidnapped in 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency.

"Anyone who can help solve this drama is welcome," said Sarkozy. "His (Chavez's) intervention is welcome."

Sarkozy is to meet Uribe Tuesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

Since Chavez assumed the role of mediator in August, he has met with Uribe and with relatives of the hostages and imprisoned guerrillas.

A Colombian senator said last week that representatives of the  Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels have agreed to meet Chavez in October for talks on a possible prisoner swap.

Chavez will meet with a FARC leader in Venezuela on October 8 to discuss the group's demand that Bogota release 500 FARC prisoners in exchange for 45 hostages.

The agreement has raised hopes that it will lead to direct talks on a prisoner exchange between the Colombian government and FARC, the 17,000-strong rebel group which has been battling the Colombian government since the 1960s.

Chavez has also announced plans to meet with the relatives of the three American hostages, who were seized while on an anti-drug mission.

The relatives of Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howe and Keith Stannsen are expected to arrive in Caracas Tuesday.

AFP

Subject: French news

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