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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Venezuela: U.S. would undermine election

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela's information minister said Monday that U.S. officials were urging opponents of President Hugo Chavez to boycott a December presidential vote. But U.S. officials dismissed the charge.

Information Minister Willian Lara said U.S. Embassy officials have held meetings with presidential candidates who side with the opposition and urged them to pull out of the election campaign ahead of the Dec. 3 vote.

"We have information about meetings that have been held in which the idea of participating in the electoral campaign until November and then withdrawing from it has been proposed," Lara told a press conference.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Salome Hernandez, referring to Lara's allegations, said: "We don't respond to baseless accusations."

Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader
Fidel Castro, has repeatedly accused the Bush administration of conspiring with Venezuela's opposition to topple his "revolutionary" government. U.S. officials have repeatedly denied the allegation.

Candidates hoping to challenge Chavez in the presidential vote deny taking orders from the U.S. government.

Opposition leaders are demanding an independent audit of the voter registry and a manual vote count to guarantee a transparent election. They have threatened to boycott the vote if their demands are not met by the National Elections Council, which is viewed by many government foes as pro-Chavez.
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