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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 February, 2004, 06:09 GMT
G15 leaders end Venezuela summit
By Steve Kingstone
BBC South America correspondent

G15 sign at the summit  in Caracas
The G15 summit was overshadowed by demonstrations
The group of developing nations, known as the G15, has ended a summit in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

Leaders and delegates from four continents, made a joint pledge to fight poverty by sharing expertise in the field of energy.

But the gathering was marred by violent clashes between troops and opponents of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Mr Chavez warned of a government crackdown in the event of further unrest in the country.

Unsuccessful summit

For various reasons this will not go down as one of the great international summits.

First, attendance was poor. Of the 19 developing countries that make up this group, less than half sent heads of state.

That drew criticism from Iran's President Mohammad Khatami.

The G15 brings together nations from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. Its presidency has now passed to Algeria.

Now we are facing subversion born out of desperation
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

The discussions were overshadowed by events on the streets when anti-government protestors clashed with National Guard troops on Friday. There were two fatalities and dozens of injuries.

The Venezuelan organisers are trying to sound upbeat by highlighting an agreement on energy co-operation which they say will help ease poverty.

There were discussions too about how this group can work together in broader trade negotiations.

But the fact is the event quickly became bogged down in bitter domestic politics - with President Hugo Chavez and his opponents both trying to canvass international support.

'The Chavez issue'

Now the foreign leaders have gone the immediate question is whether Venezuela will see a referendum on the president's rule.

His opponents say they have collected enough signatures to force a vote under the county's constitution.

Demonstrators in Caracas
The opposition are demanding a referendum on President Chavez

Mr Chavez accuses them of fraud and says he will crack down on "subversion".

"Now we are facing subversion born out of desperation," he said. "But we were prepared for it and they were defeated and they'll be beaten again if they take the subversive path."

The country's Electoral Council, which has analysed the signatures, is due to announce preliminary findings on Sunday.




SEE ALSO:
Two killed in Venezuela clashes
28 Feb 04  |  Americas
Anti-Chavez drive claims success
02 Dec 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Venezuela
08 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Venezuela
13 Sep 03  |  Country profiles


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