Mon, May 19, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela protests alleged Colombian incident at border

AFP , CARACAS

Venezuela issued an official protest to Colombia on Saturday denouncing an alleged cross-border incident involving Colombian soldiers, amid tensions between the neighboring countries.

Venezuela charged that a 60-man Colombian military unit was “intercepted” just beyond the border inside Venezuelan territory on Friday.

The Colombian soldiers were allegedly stopped 800m on the Venezuelan side of the border in the southeastern state of Apure and immediately ordered to leave, the Venezuelan government said in a statement.

Venezuela described the incident as “an act of provocation,” and called on Colombia to “immediately halt these violations of international rights and of Venezuelan sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said it was concerned because the incident happens at a time when the administration of conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe “is deliberately seeking to destabilize the region.”

The Colombian military has been battling Marxist rebels who reportedly cross jungle borders to hide inside Venezuela and Ecuador.

Uribe said his government was trying to confirm whether Colombian troops crossed the border.

“I just learned about the government of Venezuela’s protest. We will ask the defense minister and high command to carefully examine it,” Uribe said at a news conference alongside visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“If it is true that our soldiers went in there, we will offer our apologies. If it is not true, we will give an explanation,” he said.

The alleged incursion came after a row erupted when the Colombian military attacked a rebel camp just inside Ecuador.

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