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Chavez asks to clear Colombia's rebels from terrorist list
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Friday asked the international community to stop classifying Colombia's rebels as terrorists, a call rejected by the Colombian government.

Addressing the national legislative assembly, Chavez said Colombia, Latin American and European countries should clear Colombian rebel groups from their terrorist lists and grant them political status.

After successfully negotiated the release of two female hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Chavez argued for the groups' status, saying the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) "are not terrorist groups."

"They are real armies that hold a space in Colombia," he said.

It is necessary to continue working at different levels with the Colombian government to withdraw the rebels from the terrorist list, Chavez said.

Chavez said the FARC and ELN were put on the terrorist lists of some countries because of pressure from Washington.

Chavez said he experienced intense emotions on Thursday during the hostage release by the FARC, which chose to release former legislator Consuelo Gonzalez and former vice-presidential candidate Clara de Rojas to Venezuela.

Meanwhile, Colombia rejected Chavez's call, describing it as "a totally unusual and disproportionate request."

"The (Colombian) government cannot accept this kind of request, the condition (of terrorists) is not just a name, it is due to the deeds they committed," said Colombia's Interior and Justice Minister Carlos Holguin.

Holguin said FARC was included in the world's terrorist list for the violent deeds they conducted and not for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's choice.

Some Colombian officials consider the request as an interference in Colombia's internal affairs. "It is an interference in (Colombia's) internal conflict... there is no way we can accept it," said Colombia's former defense minister Martha Ramirez.

Colombia's opposition also turned down Chavez's call, but said the two countries' relations will not be affected.

"We cannot allow these declarations to affect the good historical relations between Colombia and Venezuela," said Rafael Pardo from Colombia's opposition the Liberal Party.
(Xinhua News Agency January 12, 2008)

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