July 23, 2001

Venezuela eyes end to Guyana border dispute

                 CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Pro-government Venezuelan
                 lawmakers have called for a peaceful end to a century-old border dispute
                 with neighboring Guyana, under which it claims some three-quarters of
                 the former British colony.

                 The legislators visited settlements on the border with Guyana on Saturday to
                 sign a declaration supporting President Hugo Chavez's position that a 1899
                 treaty giving a mineral-rich region called Esequibo to Guyana was "null and

                 The declaration also urged both nations to work for a swift solution that would
                 be "just, long-lasting and acceptable."

                 "We held a special session of the parliamentary Defense Committee, and then
                 we signed the document," legislator Saul Ortega told Reuters on Sunday.

                 Over the past two years, Chavez's nationalist administration has revived the
                 border controversy over Esequibo, a sparsely inhabited jungle region of some
                 63,600 square miles in eastern Guyana.

                 During his weekly radio talk show "Hello President" on Saturday, Chavez
                 pledged cooperation "with Guyana and with all the people which live in that
                 immense territory."

                 "This cannot remain in limbo for much longer; we have to solve this situation,"
                 said Chavez, after talking by telephone with National Assembly President
                 William Lara, who headed the delegation.

                 Lara, a staunch Chavez supporter, insisted that "we do not have a hostile stance.
                 This is not an unfriendly gesture toward Guyana or anyone."

                 In recent weeks, Chavez also has strongly defended Venezuela's sovereignty
                 over a tiny island, the Isla de Aves, amid criticism from eastern Caribbean

                 The desert island, which is only inhabited part of the year, lies some 350 miles
                 north of Venezuela's coast.

                   Copyright 2001 Reuters.