- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) - President Hugo Chavez said Saturday he hopes to “reset” relations with the United States at an upcoming summit.

Despite recent criticism of President Barack Obama, Chavez said he wants to bring relations between the two governments back to a “rational level.”

“I’ll be willing to press the reset button,” he said in a telephone call to Venezuelan state television from Iran. “I hope that will be the policy of President Obama.”

Venezuela’s relations with Washington grew increasingly strained under former President George W. Bush _ reaching a low point in September, when Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador and withdrew Venezuela’s envoy to Washington. His visit to Iran is part of an effort to build ties with other countries at odds with the U.S.

The socialist leader last month called Obama “ignorant” after the U.S. president accused Chavez of “exporting terrorism” and being an obstacle to progress in Latin America.

But Chavez said Saturday that the April 17-19 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago could “be the place to reset all types of relations between the United States and Venezuela.”

Chavez employed the “reset” metaphor that U.S. officials have been using to describe their efforts for better relations with Russia after years of tension under the Bush administration.

Chavez said he’s waiting for signals that Obama is willing to take similar steps with Venezuela. Chavez said that he’ll have some questions for the new U.S. leader when they finally meet.

“Somebody needs to ask him what his vision is for the crisis that’s weighing terribly on Latin America,” he said.

“It would be good to see if something happens with Posada Carriles,” he added. “If the blockade against Cuba will persist.”

Venezuela has said it plans to reactivate an extradition request for Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative accused of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane that killed all 73 people.

During a televised news conference later Saturday, Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad railed against the G-20 meeting held earlier this week in London. Ahmadinejad said the Group of 20 industrial and developing countries wants to continue on the same path that led the world into the economic crisis.

“It’s a total failure,” the Iranian president said.

Iran’s state television reported that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Chavez for breaking ties with Israel in January to protest its offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Iranian television reported that the two countries signed agreements on economic, energy and consular affairs during Chavez’s trip.


Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this story from Cairo.

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