October 3, 2007
President Hugo Chávez and leaders of Colombia's largest rebel group have postponed a meeting aimed at securing the release of hostages including three Americans, a Colombian senator involved in the talks said Wednesday.
A meeting planned for next Monday in Venezuela has been postponed, said Colombian Sen. Piedad Córdoba, an envoy who invited Chávez to help mediate a prisoner swap between Colombia and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
''The meeting is not going to be suspended indefinitely. I think it could take a couple of days,'' Córdoba said in Washington.
Chávez said late Tuesday that the meeting ''will be held on an appropriate date,'' and could be held somewhere along the border shared with neighboring Colombia.
Although Chávez has opened a diplomatic channel with the normally hermetic rebels, the obstacles to an eventual deal are many, beginning with the FARC's long-standing demand that all rebels in U.S. custody be released.
FARC rebel commander Nayibe ''Sonia'' Rojas was convicted this year by a U.S. court of exporting cocaine, and another, Ricardo Palmera -- known by the nom de guerre Simon Trinidad -- is awaiting trial in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. Cordoba said she planned to meet with Rojas in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday.
But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said Wednesday that he opposes any measure that would permit the two high-ranking rebels to return to Colombia.
''If I were to accept the demand that Mrs. Sonia and Mr. Trinidad be returned from the United States to participate in a humanitarian exchange with the FARC, that would be disastrous,'' Uribe said after meeting in Bogota with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Asked what the U.S. is willing to do to secure the release of the three Americans and other hostages held by the FARC, Gates said: ``We are prepared to work with the government of Colombia to any extent that we can.''