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Richardson sees Chavez's help with U.S. hostages

  • Story Highlights
  • Venezuela's leader agrees to help with the hostages' release, Bill Richardson says
  • Colombian rebels have held three Americans hostage for more than five years
  • New Mexico governor travels to South America at request of three hostages' families
  • The Americans are among an estimated 750 hostages of the FARC rebels
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(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has agreed to re-engage Colombian rebels in an effort to win the release of three Americans who have been hostages in Colombia since 2003, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson finishes up a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas.

Returning from a trip to South America on Sunday, Richardson said he sees hope that Colombian rebels will free the U.S. hostages.

Richardson met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Chavez, who played a key role in the recent release of six hostages whom rebels held in Colombia.

"I believe that we made progress," Richardson said Sunday in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"There's daylight. I do believe that it's going to take a little bit of time, but I see hope after my meetings with both President Uribe of Colombia and President Chavez of Venezuela."

Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said he traveled to the region at the request of the families of three defense contractors who were captured after their plane crashed in February 2003.

Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes are among an estimated 750 hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a leftist rebel force known by its Spanish acronym, FARC.

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Richardson said Chavez agreed to try to secure the hostages' release. Chavez has said he lost contact with key FARC members after a Colombian military raid into Ecuador killed about two dozen FARC rebels on March 1.

Richardson urged the FARC to free all hostages in its custody.

He said he traveled solely as an envoy of the three men's families and not as a representative of the U.S. government or any other organization.

The New Mexico governor ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About FARCColombiaHugo ChavezBill Richardson (Politician)

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