Venezuela foreign minister urges dialogue in Libya
Sunday, February 27, 2011; 7:27 PM
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's government, which has forged close ties to Moammar Gadhafi, called Sunday for dialogue between allies and adversaries of the Libyan leader amid a deadly crackdown on protesters.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro also said Venezuela would oppose any decision by the U.N Security Council opening the way for a military intervention in Libya - which leading-decision makers in the United Nations have so far ruled out.
"We hope they know how to find the paths toward national dialogue; that they know how to find the paths toward national reconciliation," Maduro said of the opposing camps in Libya.
President Hugo Chavez's opponents strongly criticized Maduro, saying he should be condemning the violence unleashed by Gadhafi's embattled regime - and focusing on healing wounds within deeply polarized Venezuela.
"Venezuela's government should start by dealing with reconciliation between Venezuelans," lawmaker William Ojeda said.
Chavez and Gadhafi have forged close ties. Last year, Venezuelan and Libyan officials signed numerous accords and Chavez gave Gadhafi a replica of the sword that once belonged to 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar.
During a speech to supporters on Sunday, Chavez scoffed at suggestions by his adversaries that protests similar to those sweeping the Middle East could occur in Venezuela. The self-proclaimed revolutionary vowed not to allow violent uprisings aimed at spurring his ouster, prompting applause from a crowd of red-clad supporters.
"We are not going to permit violence to erupt in Venezuela," he said. "With our unity and work, we will make violence impossible."
Maduro did not address the U.N. Security Council's unanimous decision Saturday to impose an arms embargo on Libya as part of an effort to halt the violence against protesters.
Council members also agreed to refer the crackdown to a permanent war crimes tribunal for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity.
Chavez has neither condemned nor defended efforts to quell the popular rebellion against Gadhafi's rule, but he tacitly threw his support behind the Libyan leader on Saturday.
"I can't say that I support or am in favor of or applaud all the decisions taken by any friend of mine in any part of the world," Chavez said during a televised address.
"We support Libya's independence, its government," the president said. "We want peace for Libya."
Those comments, too, drew criticism from Ojeda.
"How is it possible that even Gadhafi's representative in the United Nations has recognized the widespread violations of human rights in Libya, and our government gives its support to Gadhafi? It's shameful." Ojeda said.