Latin America & Caribbean

Unasur leaders to debate Venezuela and Colombia crisis

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, 21 July
Image caption Mr Chavez has long had troubled relations with Colombia

The South American regional group Unasur has called a special meeting to address the breakdown in relations between Venezuela and Colombia.

Foreign ministers will meet in Ecuador next week to discuss the crisis, triggered by Colombia's claim that Venezuela harbours Colombian rebels.

Venezuela denies this, and has broken off diplomatic relations with Colombia.

President Hugo Chavez also ordered the military to be on maximum alert on Venezuela's border with Colombia.

Mr Chavez has accused Colombia of trying to create a pretext for US military intervention against him.

However, Colombia says it has detailed evidence that Farc and ELN rebels are operating from bases inside Venezuela.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who called for the Unasur meeting, said relations had deteriorated to such a point that "a war is in the making", and that Unasur "should not allow that war to happen between brother countries".

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters that Mr Chavez' decision on Thursday to sever all diplomatic relations with Colombia and put border troops on alert was "a petulant response".

But Venezuela's Defence Minister Carlos Mata said the army was ready to "give a robust response" if Colombian forces attacked.

The issue over whether Venezuela has rebels on its territory has dogged ties between the two South American nations for the past eight years.

The latest exchange plunges bilateral relations to a new low.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites