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Uribe, Chavez meet for hostage swap talks, unveil pipeline

By dpa news     Oct 12, 2007 in Politics
Presidents Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela met on Friday amid intensive talks aimed at securing a hostage swap with Colombian rebels, which Chavez is mediating.
In public, the two leaders unveiled a new gas pipeline between the two countries. No explicit mention was made of the ongoing negotiations to convince the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to free about 45 hostages - some held for more than 10 years - in exchange for the release of nearly 500 imprisoned members of the Marxist rebel guerrilla.
The left-wing populist Chavez - who is scheduled to meet FARC leaders soon and got involved in the talks with Uribe's approval - and the conservative Colombian president opened the Antonio Ricaurte stretch of the Trans-Oceanic gas pipe with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa as a guest.
The Trans-Oceanic Pipeline will initially carry gas from the Caribbean province of La Guajira, in northern Colombia, to the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo. From 2012, it is set to take gas from Venezuela - which has the greatest resources of natural gas in Latin America - back to Colombia and other countries in the region.
During a ceremony in Estacion Ballenas, in La Guajira - only a few kilometres away from the border to Venezuela - Chavez, Uribe and Correa called for energy integration in South America.
"Here we have started this first stretch of the international gas pipe to Panama," Chavez said, adding that he hoped to study the feasibility of taking gas to Ecuador.
"Hopefully countries will find more gas, but not for them to take it to the north. Here we are giving an example of prioritizing our people, our development," Chavez said.
Correa praised the gas pipe as evidence of Latin American integration, and Uribe stressed cooperation with Caracas.
"Colombia shares its own reserves of gas with Venezuela for as long as those reserves last, and if at that time Colombia has no more gas reserves, Venezuela will supply us," Uribe said.
He added that Colombia will allow Venezuela to build an oil pipeline to export its abundant oil and oil derivatives through to the Colombian Pacific coast, from where it could be shipped to Asia.
Construction of the Trans-Oceanic gas pipe started in July 2006. It is 177 kilometres long - with 89 kilometres on Colombian territory - and cost around 150 million dollars. dpa fp vs cc