Chavez requests meeting with commander of Colombia's FARC rebels

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Sunday he would try to persuade Colombian guerrillas to lay down their weapons if Colombia's US-backed government allows him to meet with the rebels' commander. Chavez also accused Washington of fomenting Colombia's decades-old armed conflict, saying that unceasing warfare provides "the perfect excuse" to maintain a military presence in the Andean nation, which has received billions of dollars in military aid from the United States. "I don't agree with the armed struggle, and that's one of the things I want to discuss with (rebel leader Manuel) Marulanda," Chavez said on his weekly TV program. "This problem doesn't have a military solution, and if it doesn't have a military solution, what other solution is left? The political path." The Venezuelan leader also urged his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, to recognize the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the National Liberation Army as legitimate insurgent groups - rather than terrorists - as a first step toward possible peace talks.