Page last updated at 11:19 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

Libya honours Chavez with stadium

Libya has named a football stadium in its second largest city after Hugo Chavez the left-wing Venezuelan president.

Hugo Chavez
Chavez's strident views have won him many supporters and enemies

The new stadium can hold 11,000 people and opened in the Mediterranean city of Benghazi.

The Libyan football federation said it named the stadium after President Chavez because of what it called his "brave humanitarian positions, especially in support of the people of Gaza in the recent Israeli aggression".

In January, President Chavez expelled the Israeli ambassador in Caracas in protest against the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip that ended with more than 1,300 Palestinians dead.

Mohamed Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was present at the opening ceremony of the new stadium.

But the Libyan delegation did not bring luck to the national Olympic team, which was defeated 2-1 by their Syrian rivals in the opening match.

Libya, a state formerly considered a pariah by the West, has grown close to Venezuela, an oil-producing nation and member of OPEC.

Hugo Chavez supporters in Lebanon
Hugo Chavez has many admirers in the region for his anti-Israeli views

A high-level mission from Libya will attend an African-Latin American summit to be held in Caracas in May.

Mr Chavez's decision to expel the Israeli ambassador after the Gaza attacks played well in the Arab countries, where he became a hero and symbol of resistance.

Pictures of him were shown on banners and placards in anti-Israeli demonstrations around the region.

In President Chavez's decision to expel their ambassador, Israel declared the Venezuelan head of the mission in Tel Aviv, "persona non grata" and ordered him to leave.

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