Maduro accuses Colombia of seeking to provoke conflict with Venezuela

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the Colombian government Tuesday of using dissident FARC leaders' rejection of a peace accord to try to "provoke a military conflict" with Venezuela, and placed border soldiers on alert.

"Not only has the Colombian government engaged Colombia in a worsening war, but it is using unfounded accusations to threaten Venezuela and provoke a military conflict with our country," said Maduro during a military ceremony in Caracas.

He added he was placing military units deployed along the 1,400 mile (2,200 kilometers) border with Colombia on high alert, due to Colombia's "threat of aggression against Venezuela."

Maduro also said that military exercises would take place along the border from September 10 to 28, to "bring the armed system and the entire operational deployment into full readiness."

The already fraught relations between the socialist president and his Colombian counterpart Ivan Duque have grown even worse after former FARC leaders last week formally rejected a 2016 peace deal and announced a return to arms.

Right-wing Duque has pledged to hunt down the dissident leaders and accused Maduro of providing "shelter and support" for the rebels.

Colombia, along with the United States and more than 50 other countries, in January recognized Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president and have continued to call on Maduro to step down.

Earlier Tuesday, Guaido offered to help Colombia track down the dissident FARC rebels.