CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called Friday for Europe to remove from its list of terrorist organizations two Colombian groups -- including FARC, the group that freed two hostages Thursday in a mission Chavez organized.
During his televised State of the Union speech, Chavez -- an outspoken enemy of the Bush administration -- insisted Europe includes the two groups on its terror list only because of "pressure" from the United States, which also names them on its list of foreign terrorist organizations.
"I request from the governments of the continent that they will remove the FARC and the ELN," Chavez said.
FARC, the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has been blamed for numerous attacks and holds about 750 hostages, according to Colombian government estimates.
ELN, the National Liberation Army, the second-largest rebel group in Colombia, also is blamed for killings, kidnappings, and other attacks. This week the Colombian government announced the capture of Carlos Marin Guarin, known by the alias "Pablito," alleged to have commanded roughly half the ELN force.
Both FARC and ELN are on the European Union's list of groups and individuals believed linked to terrorism.
"I will ask Europe to remove the ELN and the FARC from the list of terrorist groups in the world, because that only has one source: the pressure of the United States," Chavez said.
He argued, "I say this even though somebody might be bothered by it: the FARC and the ELN are not terrorist groups. They are armies, real armies ... that occupy a space in Colombia."
He added that the two groups' "insurgent forces" have a goal, "a project," that is "Bolivarian" and that "we respect."
Chavez said his nation is committed to bringing about peace in Colombia, a task that means "we must continue to work at the various levels" with FARC and ELN.
"No one should be bothered by it. It is absolutely essential to do so. Who can think of the possibility of a peace accord when there is no contact with the parties involved," he asked. E-mail to a friend
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