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Friday, 29 June, 2001, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Chavez angry over Montesinos grab
Montesinos being moved
War of words over Montesinos's capture
The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has accused Peru of secretly sending agents to Venezuela to track down the former Peruvian spy master, Vladimiro Montesinos.

In a nationwide address, Mr Chavez said Venezuela was withdrawing its ambassador to Peru in protest at Lima's "unfriendly behaviour".

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Chavez: "Venezuela is a sovereign country"
Mr Montesinos was apprehended on 23 June by Venezuelan security forces, after being traced in Venezuela by the Peruvian authorities and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The former intelligence chief is now being held at a maximum security prison in Peru. He is accused of creating a vast web of corruption during his years as the right-hand man of disgraced former president, Alberto Fujimori.

Peru's Interior Minister Antonio Ketin Vidal said in Lima on Wednesday night that Peruvian and US agents had been planning a secret joint operation to catch Montesinos before it was "mysteriously" interrupted by Venezuelan officers.

In repsonse, Mr Chavez said: "We are outraged. Venezuela is a sovereign country and no police organisation can come here and mount an operation behind the back of our government."

Mr Chavez added that he hoped to restore normal diplomatic relations with Peru when the President-elect, Alejandro Toledo, takes office next month.

Montesinos 'sheltered'

There has been speculation that the Venezuelan Government was sheltering Mr Montesinos, who in 1992 helped arrange asylum for 93 Venezuelan military officers involved in an attempted coup with Mr Chavez, a former paratrooper.

An FBI spokesman, Wayne Russell, said on Thursday: "It's the FBI's opinion, as well as the Peruvian Government's, that Mr Montesinos was being kept in Venezuelan territory, and it is also our belief that the Venezuelans were aware of that fact long before his arrest."

In his speech, Mr Chavez angrily denied these accusations, denouncing a shadowy "international conspiracy" to discredit his government as "criminals".

Mr Montesinos fled Peru last October.

He left behind hundreds of videos of meetings with businessmen, military leaders and politicians.

Analysts say the recordings could implicate many of the country's elite in the corruption network Mr Montesinos allegedly set up to keep Mr Fujimori in power.

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See also:

26 Jun 01 | Americas
How Montesinos was betrayed
27 Jun 01 | Americas
Montesinos 'knows of 30,000 videos'
26 Oct 00 | Americas
Hunt for Peru spy chief
27 Jan 01 | Americas
Peru shocked by 'Vladi video' theft
14 Dec 00 | Americas
Missing spy chief 'has fled Peru'
25 Jun 01 | Americas
Montesinos timeline
25 Jun 01 | Media reports
Peruvian press hail 'stupendous' arrest
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