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Accused drug kingpin will go to Venezuela: Chavez

HAVANA (Reuters) - Colombia will extradite a businessman accused of being a major drug kingpin back to his native Venezuela to face justice, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday on Cuban television.

Chavez said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos promised in a recent meeting that Walid Makled, known as “The Turk,” would go to Venezuela, not the United States, where he is also wanted.

Chavez fears that the United States, with whom he has frosty political relations, would use Makled to try to discredit him.

Makled was captured in August in Colombia in a joint operation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the head of Colombian police said at the time he would be extradited to the United States.

He is accused of shipping tons of cocaine each month to the United States and Europe, in an alliance with Colombian leftist rebels.

Chavez said Santos told him in a meeting on Tuesday in Venezuela that “he was going to fulfill that commitment to send this bandit to Venezuelan justice and I’m sure he will fulfill it.”

“I expect that soon we will have this bandit in front of Venezuelan courts,” said Chavez, who was in Havana to sign cooperation agreements with Cuba, a close ally of socialist Venezuela.

After their meeting, Santos and Chavez said they agreed to improve relations between their neighboring countries. They had clashed last year over a Colombian plan to allow U.S. troops more access to its bases.

They did not disclose any accords on Makled, who has said in a television interview that he poured $2 million into a 2007 Chavez political campaign and in return got a concession at Venezuela’s Puerto Cabello, his alleged shipping point for drugs.

Chavez said the United States would get Makled to “vomit” accusations against him and use them to justify putting Venezuela on Washington’s list of countries that support drug trafficking.

“I am sure that the Colombian government is not going to take part in that game,” he said.

Reporting by Esteban Israel in Havana and Diego Ore in Caracas; editing by Jeff Franks and Mohammad Zargham