- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela has been temporarily recalled to Washington for consultations after comments by President Hugo Chavez criticizing the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan.
During a television appearance Monday, Mr. Chavez held up photos of dead Afghan children and called the U.S.-led military operation a "slaughter of innocents."
In response, the Bush administration asked Ambassador Donna Hrinak to take an open return flight to Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters yesterday. She arrived in Washington on Thursday.
"She hasn't been recalled on any long-term basis," he said. "She will return to Venezuela once these consultations are completed."
Mr. Boucher said the United States was surprised by Mr. Chavez's remarks this week because they were in "contradiction" to his country's previously stated position that it would cooperate in the anti-terrorism effort.
He called Mr. Chavez remarks "surprising and very disappointing."
"We are trying to figure out why Venezuela, on the one hand, signs up to the activity in the OAS [Organization of American States] and invokes the Rio Treaty, and then we hear such surprising comments from the president," he said.
The OAS declared its support for the U.S. war against terrorism, invoking the Rio Treaty for mutual defense.
"We want to look at the relationship because we do believe it's an important and long-standing one between the United States and Venezuela, and that it's very important in this situation," said Mr. Boucher.
Venezuela, a major oil supplier to the United States, has barred U.S. anti-drug aircraft from its skies. It also has said that it can endorse the fight against terrorism and criticize U.S. conduct at the same time.
"To call for an end to the war, to advocate causes, to attract attention to the need in this case that innocents don't keep dying I believe these are not reasons for irritating anyone," Foreign Minister Luis Alfonso Davila was quoted by wire service reports as saying yesterday.
After meeting with Mr. Davila on Wednesday, Mrs. Hrinak said Venezuela remained a "partner" in the war on terrorism.
Mr. Chavez has had a troubled relationship with Washington since he took office in 1999.
Citing the need for a "multipolar" world order, he has strengthened ties with China and Russia, and countries such as Iraq, Libya, Iran and Cuba, which are on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.


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