Venezuela accuses Colombian troops of intrusion

The Venezuelan government on Saturday accused 60 Colombian troops of illegally entering Venezuelan territory and called "the incursion" a provocation by the Colombian government seeking to destabilize the region".

"Venezuela views with concern that this act of provocation comes at a time when our government has denounced the belligerent policy of the Colombian government that is deliberately looking to destabilize the region," the Foreign Ministry said in a protest note.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the Colombian soldiers had been intercepted Friday in Venezuela's western Apure state, about 800 meters from the two countries' shared border.

The Colombian government should "immediately cease these violations of international rights," he said.

The alleged incursion came a day after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez vowed to review diplomatic and trade ties with Colombia.

In Bogota, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said his government was trying to confirm whether Colombian troops crossed the border.

"I just learned about the Venezuelan government's protest. We will ask the defense minister and high command to carefully examine it," he told a news conference.

Venezuela has accused Colombia of deliberately destabilizing the region, following a cross-border Colombian raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador on March 1.

The attack drew strong condemnation from Ecuador, Venezuela and Nicaragua and briefly aroused fears of a war in the Andean region as Ecuador and Venezuela ordered troops to their borders with Colombia.

[Source: Xinhua News Agency, Caracas, 18May08]

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