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Venezuela, Colombia hold talks to repair ties

PARAGUANA, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe took a stab at mending relations Friday after months of sniping that threatened billions of dollars in trade and unleashed a diplomatic crisis between Latin America's top U.S. opponent and closest U.S. ally.

Chavez, who just months ago called reconciliation impossible, said the talks were aimed at a "relaunch of cooperation, peace and integration of Latin America."

"We have a need to take up the path again and reactivate relations. Now that depends on many things," Chavez said, welcoming Uribe warmly before they began closed-door talks at the Paraguana oil refining complex on the Caribbean coast. It was their first one-on-one meeting since August.

Analysts said the two are setting aside their on-and-off feud because each benefits politically from normalized relations. The countries are key commercial partners, with $6 billion in trade last year, and the leaders were expected to sign accords to link the Andean neighbors with two new railways.

Chavez also has reiterated his willingness to help negotiate the release of hundreds of hostages still being held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebels.

For both presidents, "the interest right now is to lower the level of confrontation and strengthen relations in common areas, especially the economy," said analyst Sadio Garavini, a former Venezuelan diplomat.

Relations sank to their lowest point in decades in March after Colombia attacked a rebel camp in Ecuador. Chavez responded by briefly dispatching troops to Venezuela's border with Colombia, pulling his ambassador and threatening to cut back trade. He later restored relations, something Ecuador's leftist government hasn't done.

During a feud over Chavez's mediation role with Colombian rebels, the Venezuelan president called Uribe a "pawn of the U.S. empire" and likened him to a mafia boss. "A man like that doesn't deserve to be the president of a country - coward, liar!" Chavez said.

Colombia, meanwhile, accused Chavez of offering an open-ended loan of at least $250 million to the FARC - charges bolstered by documents that Uribe's government said were retrieved from a laptop at the bombed guerrilla camp. Bogota officials also said Venezuela has long harbored several rebel leaders.

Chavez denied the accusation, and Colombia's ambassador to Caracas, Fernando Marin, said the laptop documents are not on Friday's agenda.

In Colombia on Friday, the FARC issued a statement condemning what it called the "betrayal" of two guerrillas who had been responsible for the 15 hostages freed by Colombian soldiers in a bold rescue mission this month.

The FARC said it remained open to trading other hostages for imprisoned guerrillas.

Chavez made reconciliation easier for Uribe when he called on the FARC last month to disarm and give up its hostages - after previously urging world leaders to consider the group a legitimate army of insurgents.

Through Chavez's mediation, the guerrillas freed six hostages earlier this year.

But the FARC said subsequently that it was finished with unilateral releases. Then Colombia's military rescued the 15 rebel-held hostages last week - reducing Chavez's profile while pushing Uribe's already immense popularity to new highs.

"Uribe is strengthened internationally," while "Chavez has realized he was riding the losing horse" and has expediently adjusted his stance toward Colombia, said Rafael Nieto, a Colombian analyst and former deputy justice minister.

Chavez is looking to shore up his political support ahead of state and local elections in November, and maintaining a conflict with Colombia could be unpopular among Venezuelans.

Uribe has his own political imperative for smoothing over tensions: trade.

For both presidents, "the interest right now is to lower the level of confrontation and strengthen relations in common areas, especially the economy," said analyst Sadio Garavini, a former Venezuelan diplomat.

11/07/2008, CNN


4. Answer the questions:

1. What were the talks held by Venezuela’s and Colombia’s leaders aimed at?

2. What political benefits will each party to a conflict get from normalized relations?

3. What economic advantages do Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe seek from restoration of relations between their countries?

4. When did the relations between Venezuela and Colombia sink to their lowest point?

5. What did the political leaders of both countries accuse each other of?

6. What was a turning point in the conflict between the two parties?

7. What are Venezuela’s and Colombia’s leaders’ reasons for changing aggressive and tough stances and smoothing over tensions between their countries?


5. Translate the following article into Russian using active vocabulary:

Gordon Brown in G8 meeting with Russian President

Dmitri Medvedev

Dmitri Medvedev, the new Russian President, met Gordon Brown for the first time today as the two leaders attempted to thaw relations after a period of diplomatic hostility.

Relations between Britain and Russia have been strained over the past two years. At last year's G8 summit Tony Blair is believed to have become embroiled in angry exchanges with Vladimir Putin, Mr Medvedev's predecessor.

Mr Medvedev attended this year's conference, at Lake Toya on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, without Mr Putin, but there are suspicions that the former President is pulling strings behind the scenes.

Speaking at the start of the 45-minute meeting this morning — one of four meetings with Western leaders — Mr Medvedev said that the relationship between Russia and Britain had "enormous potential".

"This reveals the enormous potential our relationship enjoys, even with certain problems faced there, and this is a good chance to discuss the potential of development with respect to the economy and trade and humanitarian issues," the Russian leader said, speaking through interpreters.

During the meeting, Mr Brown is believed to have raised Russia's refusal to extradite the former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoy, the chief suspect in the London poisoning of the dissident Alexander Litvinenko. It was this incident that caused the rift between Russia and Britain that culminated in last year's tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats.

Further tension has been stoked by the treatment of the British Council in Russia, with numerous employees arrested and the council's operations hampered, as well as a dispute with the oil giant BP over its operations in Russia.

"International relations always require people to come towards each other. The Prime Minister hopes his bilateral meeting with Mr Medvedev will be a constructive discussion on a wide range of issues," a British official said.

In what represented the biggest round of diplomacy since he took power, Mr Medvedev held separate talks with President Bush, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President.

After the meeting with Mr Bush, a senior aide to Mr Medvedev said that the talks had been "constructive". However, he added that the United States had failed to ease Russia’s concerns about its plans for a Europe-based missile shield.

"There is no real progress," Sergei Prikhodko, said. He added that Mr Medvedev warned Mr Bush that deploying interceptor missiles for the system in the former Soviet republic of Lithuania "would be absolutely unacceptable for the Russian Federation".

Mr Prikhodko said that the talks were "exclusively well-intentioned, constructive and open, but at times critical." He said that Mr Medvedev believes "the overall balance of Russian-American relations is without a doubt positive".

Elsewhere at the G8 summit this morning, leaders were locked in tense negotiations over the future of aid to Africa, as Britain and Japan resisted efforts by France and Italy to water down historic promises made at the 2005 Gleneagles summit to double development in the world’s poorest continent.

The pressure to water down the proposals comes from Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, and Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, who both face pressure to trim their domestic spending. It is opposed by Mr Brown and by the Japanese Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda.

07/07/2008, Time


6. Answer the questions:

1. Where did the Russian President and the British Prime Minister attempt to thaw their diplomatic relations?

2. How long have the Russian and British political leaders been at loggerheads?

3. What incidents caused a rift and led to strained diplomatic relations between the two countries?

4. How did the Russian President characterize the Russian-British relations?

5. Why are the normalized diplomatic relations beneficial for both parties?

6. What other political leaders did the Russian President hold separate talks with?

7. What contentious issue was discussed by the Russian and American Presidents? Was any consensus reached by them?

8. What disputable negotiations were the G8 leaders locked in at that summit

7. Translate the following article into Russian using active vocabulary:

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