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Chavez criticizes Colombia over weapons claims

Aug 06--Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday blasted accusations that his government supplied Colombian guerrillas with shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons and accused the neighboring country of blackmail.


The remarks follow a freezing of diplomatic relations between the countries over the weapons issue and over negotiations that could lead to American military bases in Colombia.

Colombia announced last week that three anti-tank weapons seized from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had been traced to Venezuela.

"What a coincidence that this information comes from Colombia one day after we started to raise our voice against the installation of Yankee bases in Colombian territory," Chavez said at a televised news conference.

"Of course this is not a coincidence," he said. "This is the government of Colombia trying to blackmail us."

Chavez said that Venezuela feels threatened by the possibility of the United States having military bases in Colombia and that the accusations were designed to discredit him.

"It was a dirty move," he said.

The Venezuelan president said he doubted the authenticity of the weapons that Colombia recovered but left open the possibility that they had been stolen by Colombian guerrillas during an attack on a Venezuela naval outpost in 1995.
 
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