LIMA, Peru European and Latin American leaders sought to unite against poverty, global warming and high food prices on Friday, but their summit was clouded by an ongoing feud between Colombia and Venezuela.
The gathering came just a day after Interpol vouched for the authenticity of documents implicating Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in efforts to support Colombian rebels, prompting impassioned denials from Chavez.
Peruvian President Alan Garcia opened the summit with an appeal for the nearly 60 leaders or top officials to set aside petty issues and focus on setting clear strategies in the struggle against poverty and global warming.
"It is imperative that what unites us take precedence in our meetings," Garcia said. "We leave aside, for the moment, what we disagree on."
But some disagreements were too fresh to ignore.
Interpol reported Thursday that computer files suggesting Venezuela was arming and financing Colombian guerrillas came from a rebel camp inside Ecuador and were not tampered with discrediting Venezuelan assertions that Colombia had faked them.
The findings increase pressure on Venezuela's fiery, anti-U.S. leader to explain his ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Chavez on Thursday dismissed the report as "ridiculous."
He denies arming or funding the FARC though he openly sympathizes with Latin America's most powerful rebel army and threatened on Thursday to scale back economic ties with Colombia because of the Interpol report.
"One of the big problems we have (on the continent) is the government of Colombia," Chavez said in brief remarks during a break at the summit. "The show, the lies, the manipulation. The relations with paramilitary groups and drug trafficking. There are grave problems in Colombia."
He called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe "a promoter of disunion" saying Uribe did "not fit in" in a region where the leaders of Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay "are a brotherhood."
In a radio interview in Lima, Uribe said he had no problems with Venezuela or Ecuador, countries for which he said he felt "the greatest affection, the greatest respect."
"The only thing we ask is that no one give shelter to terrorists," he said, adding his greatest problem as a leader is dealing with the FARC, a guerrilla movement that has existed for more than 40 years.
The Colombian attack March 1 on the rebel camp where the computer files were discovered prompted Ecuador's Rafael Correa, an ally of Chavez, to sever diplomatic relations with Colombia and to furiously denounce the computer documents, which indicated that his government, too, had dealings with the FARC.
Correa's justice minister, Gustavo Jalkh, insisted Friday that the computer files "cannot have credibility" because the evidence had been mishandled.
During a European tour this week, Correa said he would consider restoring ties only if Uribe halts "Colombia's verbal aggression."
The three feuding leaders met for the first time since an uncomfortable summit in the Dominican Republic in March, when Uribe and Chavez embraced one another at the urging of Dominican President Leonel Fernandez. Correa reluctantly shook Uribe's hand then.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, meanwhile, urged leaders to put their "personal interests aside" and continue efforts to liberate Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen and former Colombian presidential candidate held by the FARC for more than six years.
Chavez and Correa have offered to negotiate Betancourt's and other hostages' release.
Friday's working sessions were closed to the news media, meaning any public displays of anger such as when King Juan Carlos of Spain told Chavez to "shut up" at a Chilean summit six months ago were unlikely.
At least one feud seemed to have calmed on Friday.
Chavez gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a kiss, apparently ending a verbal spat that erupted a few days before the summit.
Merkel recently drew Chavez's wrath by saying he did not speak for Latin America and that leftist polices such as his were not the solution to the region's problems. He responded by accusing her party of sharing the ideals of Adolf Hitler.
Also at the meeting, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva insisted that biofuel production is not fueling soaring world food prices, as many international experts and European leaders have argued.
"Obviously, the oil industry is behind" such suggestions, Silva said, for the first time accusing oil companies of fanning opposition to biofuels. Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugarcane-based ethanol.