New Mexico Gov. Richardson says Venezuelan president willing to help American hostages

Eds: APNewsNow. Will be led. UPDATES with Richardson saying Chavez disposed to help.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is "ready to help re-engage in negotiations" for the release of three American hostages held captive by rebels in Colombia.

Richardson says he plans to put forward a proposal for the hostages' release in the coming weeks and that Chavez is willing to work with him as a "primary mediator."

Richardson spoke to The Associated Press by telephone following a meeting with Chavez on Saturday night.

The Democratic governor is in Venezuela not as an official envoy but at the request of the hostages' families. The former U.S. presidential candidate and energy secretary has experience as a troubleshooter in other countries.