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Friday, August 04, 2006


Caracas, 4 August (AKI) - Venezuela's anti-US president, Hugo Chavez, announced he has ordered his country's ambassador to Israel to withdraw in protest at the Jewish state's ongoing military offensive in Lebanon, reportedly calling the aerial attacks "genocide." "I have ordered the withdrawal of our ambassador in Israel," Chavez said during a speech in western Venezuela on Thursday. The move was in response to "our indignation at seeing how the state of Israel continues ... bombarding, killing, quartering," he said.

Chavez, a vocal critic of the US government, has condemned Israeli incursions into Gaza and Lebanon, and frequently expresses support for the Palestinian people. He has accused the US government of fomenting violence in the Middle East, and recently blamed an "Israeli elite" for the armed conflict in Lebanon.

Lebanese authorities say more than 900 people have died in the aerial bombardments that have pounded Lebanon's cities and 3,000 people have been injured - mostly civilians. Israel has lost at 68 people, including 41 soldiers. The conflict - in its 24th day - began after guerrillas from militant Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July.

Israel's military assault on Lebanon has coincided with an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip to recover another captured soldier and halt Palestinian rocket fire. Since the Israeli military action in Gaza began on 28 June, an estimated 175 Palestinians have been killed, including approximately 40 children and eight women, and over 620 injured. One Israeli soldier has been killed and 25 Israelis injured.

Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil exporter and a key supplier of oil to the United States.
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