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Chavez denies terror ties { October 1 2003 }

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Chavez Wants Normal U.S. Ties, Denies 'Terror' Links
Wed October 1, 2003 07:25 PM ET
By Pascal Fletcher

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday he wanted normal relations with the United States and urged Washington not to believe a U.S. magazine report accusing his government of supporting Colombian and Islamic "terrorists."

In recent weeks, Chavez has angrily rejected what he called meddling from senior U.S. officials who have expressed support for a possible referendum on his rule in Venezuela, which is a major supplier of crude oil to the U.S. market.

Chavez on Wednesday dismissed a story by U.S. News & World Report, which cited unnamed U.S. military and intelligence officials saying his government was helping Colombian rebels and Islamic radicals viewed as "terrorists" by Washington.

"This is sewage, it's disgusting," Chavez told foreign correspondents at a news conference in Caracas. He said "extreme right-wing sectors" in the United States were behind the accusations.

The U.S. news magazine said agents from communist Cuba were working inside Venezuela's intelligence service and added Chavez's government was "flirting with terrorism."

"Let's hope the circles of power in the United States don't keep on repeating this rubbish and lies," Chavez said. "We want normal relations with the United States, relations based on mutual respect."

Since he was elected in 1998, the leftist Chavez has angered Washington by strengthening ties with anti-U.S. states like Cuba and Libya. He also condemned the U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last week Chavez accused the United States of harboring Venezuelan "terrorists" plotting to kill him.


Chavez said the aim of the allegations cited by U.S. News & World report was to create a pretext for his enemies to topple him, through assassination, another coup or an invasion.

"The suggestion is here that Chavez is a terrorist and should be aggressively pursued," he said.

He said the CIA used similar arguments to back a 1973 coup against Chile's socialist President Salvador Allende. Chavez also accused the CIA of fabricating reports that Iraq's former president, Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction.

The Venezuelan leader has often rejected allegations by critics that his government sympathizes with, and actively supports, Marxist guerrillas from neighboring Colombia.

Colombian officials and military officers have accused Caracas of allowing the rebels to use Venezuelan territory.

Chavez has also denied any links between his self-styled "revolutionary" government and radical Middle East groups, which some U.S. military officials say have support cells on the Venezuelan island of Margarita.

Chavez, who survived a brief coup last year, is resisting a campaign by domestic foes to try and vote him out of office.

Venezuela's electoral authorities on Wednesday accepted a formal notice from the opposition that they would collect signatures to request a referendum which could be held in late February 2004.

As the possibility of a referendum against him grows, the Venezuelan leader has stepped up his attacks against the United States, accusing the CIA of taking part in the April, 2002 coup that briefly toppled him. Washington denies this.

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