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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December, 2004, 17:01 GMT
Moratinos defends coup comments
Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos
Moratinos stands by his controversial comments
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has defended his claim that the former government supported a failed coup bid in Venezuela in 2002.

The comments, made during a visit to Spain by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week, prompted the Popular Party to demand his resignation.

Mr Moratinos told MPs that Jose Maria Aznar's cabinet lent legitimacy to the coup attempt by failing to condemn it.

But he apologised for the inopportune timing of his remarks.

Speaking at the parliamentary hearing on Wednesday he also denied accusing the former centre-right government of instigating or helping to prepare the coup.

"What I wanted to say and what I want to say is that the Aznar government did not condemn the coup d'etat, that it endorsed it and gave it an international legitimacy," he said.

Ambassador instructed

Venezuela's military briefly ousted Mr Chavez in April 2002 after blaming him for the deaths of 19 people during clashes between security forces and pro- and anti-government demonstrators.

Mr Chavez regained power two days later amid widespread protests against an interim government that threw out the constitution and dissolved Congress.

Mr Moratinos told state television on 22 November that "under the former government - and this was without precedent in Spanish diplomacy - the ambassador [of Spain to Venezuela] received instructions to back the coup" against Mr Chavez.

Mr Aznar's administration, which held the rotating European Union presidency at the time, insisted it believed Mr Chavez had stepped down and had called for stability in Venezuela.

Even after his appearance at the hearing, the Popular Party again called on Mr Moratinos to resign.

Mr Aznar's Popular Party lost the 2004 general election to the Socialists three days after the 11 March Madrid bomb attacks, which many Spaniards believe were carried out in retaliation for Spain's support of the US-led war in Iraq.

Venezuelan plotters sent to jail
14 Oct 04 |  Americas
Aznar says no regrets over poll
23 Mar 04 |  Europe
Profile: Hugo Chavez
16 Mar 04 |  Americas
Timeline: Venezuela
16 Aug 04 |  Country profiles

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