Colombia: Chavez Claim of War Threat Is 'Deception'; Venezuela Nixes Probe of Rebel-Aid Accusation

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Byline: Benajmin Birnbaum, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Colombia vigorously denied over the weekend that it was considering military action against Venezuela after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced Friday that he had ordered troops to the border and was reviewing war plans.

Colombia has never thought of attacking its brother nation as the president of that country says, in a clear political deception of his own country, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's office said in a statement Saturday.

The latest verbal battle between Caracas and Bogota followed an emergency meeting of the Union of South American States on Thursday in Ecuador, which failed to end the escalating war of words between the neighboring nations.

The crisis began July 22 at the Organization of American States (OAS), where Colombia gave a multimedia presentation - complete with videos, photographs and GPS coordinates - offering evidence that Venezuela was harboring leftist rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Mr. Chavez severed diplomatic relations with Bogota the same day, and Venezuelan officials have since rebuffed Colombian calls for an international investigation into the charges.

The Obama administration, which has generally kept a low profile in Latin America, has taken a somewhat hands-off approach to the dispute while echoing Bogota's demand for an inquiry.

Our bottom line is the Colombians made a serious presentation with some very serious allegations, and it ought to be treated in a serious way, Kevin Whitaker, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said in an interview.

Mr. Whitaker, who also serves as director of the State Department's Office of Andean Affairs, added that the U.S. took no view of whether such an investigation should be conducted under the auspices of the OAS, the U.N. or one or more third-party countries. …