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Venezuela and Columbia energy deals

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos agreed to strengthen ties through energy projects as they sought to improve relations and leave behind recent bitter disputes.

They agreed to resurrect plans for a natural gas pipeline stretching from Venezuela to Central America and also revived a proposal to build an oil pipeline from Venezuela's oil fields to Colombia's Pacific coast.

Venezuela's state oil company will resume fuel sales to Colombian border states and Mr Chavez invited Colombian oil company Ecopetrol to seek a deal to pump oil in Venezuela's crude-rich Orinoco River basin.

"We've begun to build these relations," Mr Chavez said after spending more than three hours with Mr Santos during the Colombian leader's first visit to Venezuela since taking office in August.

The agreements in energy, trade and other areas came after Mr Chavez and Mr Santos agreed in August to restore full diplomatic relations that had been severed as Santos' predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, prepared to leave office.

Mr Santos and Mr Chavez have since pledged to repair trade relations undermined by years of accusations and mutual distrust.

Mr Santos said the two countries have turned a corner. "We've gone from good-intentioned statements to concrete accords," he said.

"We will be brothers forever," Mr Chavez said of the two nations after receiving Mr Santos at the presidential palace, where a military band played both national anthems and soldiers in colonial-era uniforms stood at attention.

Mr Chavez feuded for years with Mr Uribe and severed diplomatic ties in July in response to allegations that Venezuela's socialist-oriented government has provided a safe haven to leftist Colombian rebels.

Mr Chavez denies his administration turns a blind eye to rebel camps in Venezuelan territory.


From Belfast Telegraph