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Venezuela convinced of US invasion sept 05 { September 4 2005 }

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Venezuela convinced of US invasion
September 4, 2005 - 5:49AM

Venezuela has uncovered plans for a US-led invasion and is preparing to defend the country against invading forces if necessary, President Hugo Chavez said in a report carried by the state-run news agency.

The Bolivarian News Agency reported that Chavez made the comments during an interview with CNN. It was unclear when the interview was to be aired.

"If it occurs to the United States to invade our country - Fidel Castro said it and I agree - a war will start here to last 100 years," Chavez was quoted as saying. "Not only this country would be burned up, but a good part of this continent; they shouldn't make any mistake about it, we are preparing to repel an invasion."

Chavez has made similar claims in the past, and US officials have repeatedly denied them as ridiculous. Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil exporter and a major supplier of fuel to the US.

"We discovered through intelligence work a military exercise that NATO has of an invasion against Venezuela, and we are preparing ourselves for that invasion," Chavez was quoted as saying.

He said the military exercise is known as Plan Balboa and includes rehearsing simultaneous assaults by air, sea and land at a military base in Spain, involving troops from the US and NATO countries. US officials in the past have said such training is meant to prepare troops for general scenarios but not for a specify military action.

The state news agency, commonly known as ABN for its initials in Spanish, said according to Chavez the invasion plan focuses on western Venezuela and also includes a wave of bombings over Caracas and the cities of Maracay and Valencia.

"It's known they have everything planned out to capture the oilfields of the west and the east, the south," Chavez was quoted as saying.

Chavez repeated his threat that if the government of US President George W Bush were to attempt an attack, his government would immediately cut off oil shipments to the US. For this reason, it's important there is an effort to improve relations, Chavez said, according to ABN.

"It isn't us who should take the first step; the aggressor is the one that should show it is capable of sending some signal," Chavez was quoted as saying.

"The signal we have sent is enough: express our willingness to recover diplomatic, political relations, at least to the normal level that existed not long ago with the government of president Bill Clinton."

Tensions have grown in recent months between Chavez, who has emerged as a leading voice of the Latin American left, and a US government that has expressed concern about his close ties to Castro and what Chavez's opponents call an authoritarian streak.

The former army paratroop commander accuses the US government of backing a shortlived coup against him in 2002, another claim that US officials have repeatedly denied. Chavez, who was first elected in 1998, is up for reelection next year, and polls suggest he is strongly favoured to win.

2005 AAP

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