Chavez urges world leaders to consider moving U.N. to Jerusalem, attacks U.S. policies
UNITED NATIONS – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Thursday and told world leaders they should consider moving the U.N. headquarters out of the United States because of it.The leftist leader said the fact that the war was fought without U.N. authorization showed that Washington has no respect for the world body.”There were never weapons of mass destruction but Iraq was bombed, and over U.N. objections, (it was) occupied and continues being occupied,” said Chavez, who appeared to step up his frequent criticism of U.S. policies in his speech to the General Assembly at a U.N. summit.”That’s why we propose to this assembly that the United Nations leave this country, which is not respectful of the very resolutions of this assembly,” he said.Allegations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction were one of the main justifications by President Bush’s administration for the war, but none have been found since the Iraqi dictator’s ouster.World leaders had been asked to speak for five minutes, and when Chavez kept talking, the presiding diplomat passed him a note that his time was up. The Venezuelan leader threw the note on the floor and said if Bush could speak for 20 minutes at Wednesday’s opening session, so could he.At the end, Chavez’s remarks got what observers said was the loudest applause of the summit.Relations between Chavez and Washington have become increasingly strained, though the United States remains the top buyer of Venezuelan oil.Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, repeatedly has accused the U.S. government of backing plots against him, and recently alleged Washington was preparing an invasion of his country.U.S. officials strongly deny his claims but have expressed concerns about the health of Venezuelan democracy under Chavez, who was first elected in 1998 pledging a social “revolution” for the country’s poor majority.Bush criticized Venezuela’s government earlier in the day, saying in a statement that the South American nation had “failed demonstrably” to make a concerted effort to block shipments of illicit narcotics to the United States and Europe last year.Venezuela could have been subjected to a cutoff of U.S. assistance, but Bush decided to waive the provision because of national security interests.A White House “statement of explanation” about Venezuela said 165 tons of cocaine moved through the country last year along with increasing quantities of heroin.”Despite an increase in drug seizures during the past four years, it is our assessment that the government of Venezuela has not addressed the increasing use of Venezuelan territory to transport drugs to the United States,” the statement said.In early August, Chavez accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of using its agents in Venezuela for espionage, and said Venezuela was suspending cooperation with the agency. The Bush administration denied the espionage charge.Bush’s designation on Thursday adds to the growing list of issues between the United States and Venezuela.In his speech, Chavez, whose country is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, also warned that the world is facing “an energy crisis without precedent.”In a form of oil diplomacy, Chavez has extended a preferential oil trade deal called PetroCaribe to 13 Caribbean countries in what he says is part of a plan to challenge U.S. economic domination of the region.Under the plan, Venezuela will soon sell up to 190,000 barrels of fuel a day to countries from Jamaica to St. Lucia, offering favorable financing while shipping fuel directly to reduce costs. It is expected to help those countries save millions of dollars.Chavez said U.N. headquarters should be moved from New York to international city “outside the sovereignty of any state,” and noted that some have suggested Jerusalem.”The new U.N. headquarters has to be in the South,” which is home to most developing countries, he added.On the eve of the summit, negotiations from the 191 U.N. member states agreed on a watered-down document for world leaders to adopt that takes some initial steps to meet U.N. development goals and reform the United Nations.Venezuela and Cuba were the only two countries to reserve judgment on the 35-page document, which is expected to be adopted on Friday when the three-day summit ends.Chavez said the document is “illegal” because it was delivered to Venezuelan delegates only five minutes before the summit started and only in English.—Associated Press writer Ian James in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.Vail Colorado
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