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By Hugh Bronstein
BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia brought what it called threats of war from neighbouring Venezuela to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday after Hugo Chavez, leader of the neighbouring country, told his army to get ready to fight.
For months Chavez has said that a military pact signed in October between Bogota and Washington could set the stage for a U.S. invasion of Venezuela from Colombian territory.
The United States and Colombia dismiss that idea, saying their cooperation is aimed strictly at combating drug traffickers and Marxist insurgents within Colombia.
During a televised address on Sunday, Chavez ordered his military to prepare for war as the best way to preserve peace.
Colombia responded with a letter to the U.N. Security Council "about Venezuela's threats of using force against Colombia," a foreign ministry statement said, asking that the letter be distributed to all members of the council.
The formal complaint could further anger Chavez, the fiery leftist revolutionary who once called former U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil".
"We've handed over a letter explaining in detail concerns Colombia has about remarks by President Chavez and other sensitive matters," Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez told Reuters at an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Singapore.
"We have always said the door for dialogue is open... we have still not had any contact," he said.
Recriminations have increased recently, with Colombia accusing Chavez of not helping to combat drug-running rebels hiding out on Venezuela's side of the border and Chavez characterizing Colombia as a lap-dog of the U.S. "empire".
"Prepare yourselves for war," Chavez told his military commanders during his regular Sunday TV program. "If you want peace you have to be ready for war."
He has since softened his rhetoric, and on Wednesday said the media had manipulated his words.
"Venezuela's military is pacifist," he said, adding that all nations use their armies to defend against invasion.
The spat is unlikely to lead to armed conflict along the lengthy border separating the countries. But the tensions have reduced bi-lateral trade, which amounted to more than $7 billion last year.
Both Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe tend to get domestic political mileage out of the verbal sparring.
Washington sees Uribe as a buffer against Chavez and other leftists in the region such as President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, which also shares a border with Colombia.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Markey in Singapore)
(Editing by Philip Barbara)

Reuters