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Chavez rebuffs U.S. goodwill gesture

He doubts American sincerity in pursuing warmer relations.

December 06, 2006|From the Associated Press

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — President Hugo Chavez snubbed a U.S. overture Tuesday, saying he was willing to talk but didn't think Washington sincerely wanted to improve relations.

Chavez, who overwhelmingly won a third term Sunday, said that if the United States wanted to take meaningful steps, it would end the war in Iraq and extradite a jailed Cuban militant sought in Venezuela in connection with a 1976 airliner bombing.

"They want dialogue but on the condition that you accept their positions," Chavez said at a news conference. "If the government of the United States wants dialogue, Venezuela will always have its door open. But I doubt the U.S. government is sincere."

Chavez's remarks came after U.S. Ambassador William R. Brownfield congratulated Venezuelans on a peaceful election and expressed Washington's willingness to seek warmer relations.

Chavez accuses Washington of backing a 2002 coup attempt against him.

U.S. officials worry about the health of Venezuela's democracy given a government dominated by the leftist Chavez and allies.

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