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US, Venezuela to restore envoys

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro
Venezuela's foreign minister says "fluid communication" will resume soon

The United States and Venezuela are to reinstate ambassadors to each other's capitals following tit-for-tat expulsions last year.

Officials in Caracas and Washington confirmed the decision, which follows an easing of tension since President Barack Obama came to office.

President Hugo Chavez ordered out the US ambassador last September.

The move followed allegations that Washington was plotting a coup d'etat in Bolivia.

Venezuela's foreign minister Nicolas Maduro told reporters on Wednesday that diplomatic movement would "take place in the coming days, and as soon as the ambassadors have resumed their functions we will move forward to a more fluid communication".

"Both ambassadors will return immediately to their work - our ambassador, Bernardo Alvarez, in Washington, and US ambassador Patrick Duddy in Caracas. That is the plan," he said.

Fierce critic

President Chavez said in April, at a summit of the Americas where he met President Obama for the first time, that he hoped to send an ambassador back to Washington.

US state department spokesman Ian Kelly said on Wednesday that since then "both our governments have worked toward the goal of returning ambassadors to our respective capitals."

The BBC's James Coomarasamy in Washington says Mr Obama's policy of re-engaging with countries which have had troubled relationships with the US appears to be moving up a gear.

Mr Chavez was a fierce critic of the US under former President George W Bush, accusing Washington of plotting to assassinate him.

Analysts say Mr Chavez has toned down his criticism of US foreign policy since Mr Obama took office in January.

In a sign of warming ties, Mr Obama shook hands with Mr Chavez at the summit, and accepted a book from the Venezuelan leader.

But Mr Chavez has still given clear signs of continuing differences with Washington.

Offering no evidence, the Venezuelan leader said on Wednesday that he believed the US was behind the protests in Iran.

The unrest, he said, followed a pattern seen in other countries, where the CIA and "the imperial hand" of European countries were involved.

Mr Chavez also criticised Washington's policies toward Bolivia and repeated his calls for an end to the trade embargo against Cuba.



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