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Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 00:30 GMT 01:30 UK
Venezuela head accuses US envoy
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez
Chavez warned the US ambassador to 'start packing'
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened to expel the US ambassador to the country after accusing him of "provoking" a recent demonstration.

Last week ambassador William Brownfield's convoy was pelted with eggs, onions and tomatoes and chased by supporters of the president.

The US accused officials in the capital Caracas of condoning the attack, but the mayor's office has denied this.

Mr Chavez told Mr Brownfield to "start packing" before he "kicks him out".

"I'm going to throw you out of Venezuela if you continue provoking the Venezuelan people," Mr Chavez said in a nationally televised speech.

President Chavez said Mr Brownfield was partially responsible for the incident because he failed to advise the local authorities or the foreign ministry of his travel plans.

Mr Brownfield was visiting a low-income neighbourhood in Caracas to donate baseball equipment to underprivileged children.

Strained relations

The US under secretary of state had warned Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez of severe diplomatic consequences if another incident occurs, state department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The US embassy has also asked the Venezuelan government to improve security for the ambassador, saying it is legally bound to do so.

Relations between the US and Venezuela have been strained for some time, and Mr Brownfield has faced protests at recent appearances.

President Chavez has accused the Bush administration of orchestrating assassination and coup attempts in order to get at Venezuela's vast oil reserves.

But US officials say Mr Chavez is causing instability in the region with his fiery anti-Bush rhetoric and what they describe as an autocratic style of leadership.

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