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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
Chavez assassination row erupts
President Hugo Chavez and his Cuban host Fidel Castro
Chavez accuses the US of conspiring to topple him
A row has erupted over a call by US religious broadcaster Pat Robertson for the US to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Visiting Cuba, Mr Chavez would not be drawn but his deputy said Mr Robertson had made "terrorist" remarks and the country was studying its legal options.

The US State Department said the comments were "inappropriate" and did not reflect the policy of the US.

Mr Robertson's remarks come amid tense relations between the two countries.

We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability
Pat Robertson

President Chavez is a regular critic of the US, which regards Venezuela as a possible source of instability in the region.

Mr Chavez has accused Washington of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. US officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

'Criminal statement'

Mr Robertson, 75, said on Monday's edition of the 700 Club: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."

"We don't need another $200bn war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator.

Any allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the Venezuelan government are completely baseless
Sean McCormack
State department spokesman

"It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

When asked in Havana what he made of the call, the Venezuelan president said: "I haven't read anything. We haven't heard anything about him.

"I don't even know who that person is."

Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said this was a "criminal statement" and the way Washington responded to the remarks would put its anti-terrorism policy to the test.

"It's huge hypocrisy to maintain this discourse against terrorism and at the same time, in the heart of that country there are entirely terrorist statements like those."

Pat Robertson
Mr Robertson is a former presidential candidate

The vice-president also said the Organization of American States could take up the case, saying an inter-American anti-terrorism accord includes provisions against inciting others to kill.

State department spokesman San McCormack said Mr Robertson was speaking as a private citizen and that the US administration did not share his views.

"Any allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the Venezuelan government are completely baseless," Mr McCormack said.

"We have been very clear that this is not the policy of the United States."

Venezuela is the fifth-largest oil exporter and a major supplier of oil to the United States.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
US government responds to Mr Robertson's assassination call



SEE ALSO:
Chavez makes US oil export threat
15 Aug 05 |  Americas


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