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Last Updated: Monday, 31 May, 2004, 03:07 GMT 04:07 UK
Chavez 'will accept referendum'
By James Menendez
BBC, Caracas

Venezuelans queue to verify their petition signatures for a vote on President Hugo Chavez 's rule
The opposition needs 500,000 people to have verified their signature
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he will accept a recall referendum on his term in office.

President Chavez was speaking at the end of a three-day process to determine whether his opponents have enough petition signatures to trigger a vote.

Under the constitution, the opposition needs the support of nearly 2.5 million voters for the referendum to go ahead.

The petition was disputed by electoral authorities in February, prompting violent demonstrations in the capital.

For a president living under the cloud of a possible recall vote, Mr Chavez was in confident mood as he announced his decision after a meeting with international observers, including the former US president Jimmy Carter.

If the opposition win, he said, then I am out of here.

Disputed signatures

All that depends though, on the outcome of the last three days.

The opposition needed over 500,000 people to confirm signing a petition to trigger a vote on Mr Chavez's rule.

This weekend, some of the signatories were given a second chance to prove they signed.

Shortly after signing centres closed, opposition leaders were already claiming success, saying they had reached their target.

However, officials say it will be several days before the final result is known.

If a referendum is called, electoral officials say it will be held on 8 August.

It is meant to help end more than two years of political conflict between those who say President Chavez is wrecking the economy of this oil-rich country, and those who say he is transforming the lives of the impoverished majority.

The BBC's James Menendez
"It will be several days before the final result is known"

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