may 17, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela on Saturday accused 60 Colombian soldiers of illegally entering its territory, as tensions over Venezuela's alleged effort to aid Colombian guerrillas swirl.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said 60 Colombian troops had been intercepted Friday in Venezuela's western Apure state, about 875 yards from the nations' shared border.
In a written statement, Maduro asked Colombia's government to "immediately cease these violations of international rights."
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Saturday announced that he had asked his nation's army to investigate the charge. If true, Uribe vowed Colombia would apologize. "It's certain that we'll give an explanation," he said.
The two South American nations share a 1,370-mile border that winds through mountains and thick patches of jungle.
Venezuela has accused Colombia of deliberately destabilizing the region, following a cross-border Colombian raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador on March 1.
Raul Reyes, a top guerrilla leader with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was killed in the incident, which provoked both Ecuador and Venezuela to withdraw ambassadors from Bogota.
But computer files seized in that raid suggest Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have been involved financing the FARC.
Interpol confirmed the authenticity of those documents on Thursday, saying studies showed they had not been tampered with, as Chavez had claimed.
Chavez, who helped secure the release of six FARC hostages earlier this year, denies assisting the rebels and called Interpol's presentation "ridiculous" and a "show of clowns."
"The only problem we have in South America is Uribe," Chavez said on the sidelines of a summit in Peru on Friday.