UPDATE 3-Venezuela signals thaw with Colombia

Fri Aug 6, 2010 10:51pm GMT

* Chavez sends greetings to incoming Colombian president

* Lula and Kirchner seek solution to dispute

* Venezuela's relations with United States deteriorate (Recasts with Kirchner, Chavez comments)

By Frank Jack Daniel

CARACAS, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Venezuela's foreign minister will attend the inauguration of Colombia's incoming president, Juan Manuel Santos, on Saturday, signaling a thaw between the Andean neighbors after relations broke over leftist rebels.

The socialist Chavez severed ties last month and announced he was sending troops to the border when the outgoing government of President Alvaro Uribe, a close U.S. ally, said Venezuela tolerated Marxist rebel camps on its territory.

The latest spat was widely seen as a parting tussle between two ideologically opposed leaders who have long bickered over guerrillas and a U.S. military presence in Colombia. So the warmer words ahead of Santos' swearing-in came as no surprise.

"We are very optimistic," Chavez told reporters about prospects for less antagonism with the new government.

Uribe leaves office after eight years as Colombia's most popular president in history for pushing the widely loathed Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels into remote rural areas.   Continued...

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