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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 11:20 GMT
Venezuela denies backing Colombia militants
Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia
Venezuela says terrorists are "aberration against humanity"
By the BBC's Adam Easton in Caracas

Senior officials in Venezuela have rejected American accusations that the government aids Colombia's guerrilla groups.

They also reiterated their condemnation of terrorism after criticism from US Secretary of State Colin Powell who said Venezuela had not been very supportive in the fight against violent militants.

Mr Powell said the US disagreed with some of the policies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling them a "serious irritant" to US-Venezuelan relations.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
The US accused Hugo Chavez of visiting "strange countries"

On Tuesday, he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the US was concerned about Mr Chavez' actions and his assistant Carl Ford said there were signs that Venezuela was supporting Colombia's guerrillas.

Mr Powell was apparently referring to Mr Chavez's criticism of the US-led air war on Afghanistan, which the Venezuelan president likened to a "slaughter of innocents".

Defence Minister Jose Vicente Rangel said Venezuela did not support any Latin American rebel group and called terrorism an "aberration against humanity".

'Autocratic'

He also rejected Mr Powell's charge that Mr Chavez visited some "strange countries" including Iraq, Libya and Cuba.

Mr Rangel said Mexican President Vicente Fox had recently visited Cuba and that US officials had gone to Iran.

But he remained silent on Mr Powell's questioning of the Venezuelan president's "understanding of democracy".

In recent opposition marches Venezuelans have also queried Mr Chavez's democratic credentials and accused him of behaving like an autocrat.

See also:

28 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Venezuela
04 Feb 02 | Americas
Chavez marks his failed coup
31 Jan 02 | Americas
Colombia seizes munitions plane
25 Jan 02 | Americas
Chavez reshuffle defies protesters
20 Jan 02 | Americas
Colombia tries last chance for peace
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