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Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 21:59 GMT 22:59 UK
Chavez revokes US agent immunity
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez
Chavez accused the DEA of spying on his government
Caracas has withdrawn the diplomatic immunity of US anti-drugs officials working in Venezuela.

It follows a move by the US State Department to revoke the visas of six Venezuelan officials in Washington.

Both countries are locked in a row after President Hugo Chavez accused the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of spying on his government.

Washington denies the charge, accusing Caracas of failing to co-operate in the fight against drug-trafficking.

'Strike back'

Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel said his country would apply "strict reciprocity" in the allocation of visas to US officials.

"For every attack, there will be a reaction, for every strike, a strike back...and the revoking of visas will mean reciprocal action," he said.

"We are no longer going to accept civilian employees of the [DEA] being assigned to the US embassy, because that gives them the benefit of immunity," he said.

Correspondents say the dispute will add to the already tense diplomatic relations between Caracas and Washington.

Earlier this week, President Chavez, a fierce critic of the Bush administration, said he was suspending co-operation with the DEA.

"The DEA has used the pretext of fighting drug trafficking... to spy on Venezuela's government," he said last Sunday.

Venezuelan prosecutors have been investigating the activities of DEA agents working in the South American country.

Venezuela is an important transport route for cocaine from neighbouring Colombia, which produces 80% of the world's supply.

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