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Venezuela to upgrade Palestinan ties, offers aid

Caracas, November 28, 2009

Venezuela plans to open an embassy in Palestinian territories and upgrade its ties to ambassadorial level, President Hugo Chavez said on Friday, to support Palestinians in their struggle against Israel.

'We have decided to designate an ambassador and open an embassy in Palestine,' Chavez said after talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

'We now have a charge d'affaires; we will name an ambassador in coming days as part of accords to boost our bilateral relations,' he said.

Among aid agreements signed Friday were scholarships for 20 Palestinians to study medicine in Venezuela. Chavez said he saw Venezuela offering many more educational grants.

'We must tell the Palestine people how many scholarships we will give to Palestinian youth so they come and study what they need,' he said. 'They can be short and long, pre-graduate or post-graduate, technical and training studies.'

In January, Venezuela cut diplomatic relations with Israel over the Israeli offensive in Gaza of nearly a year ago, which Chavez then called a Palestinian 'holocaust.'

On Friday, he again cast the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in near-apocalyptic terms. He said, 'We ... are on the side of the Palestinian people's memorable struggle ... against the genocidal state of Israel that knocks down, kills and aims to terminate the Palestinian people.'

Chavez ordered his education minister to circulate maps Abbas gave him to illustrate the small dimensions of the Gaza Strip, where he said 1.5 million people lived in 'concentration camp' like conditions, their movements to the outside world virtually blocked by Israel.

'We (Venezuelans) should devote the entire force of our hearts and souls towards the creation of a Palestinian state,' he said. 'Venezuela is Palestine; Palestine is Venezuela, we have a common struggle.'

Chavez charged the United States, using a recent agreement to expand US troops' access to Colombian military bases, aimed to turn Colombia into 'the Israel of South America.'

The US presence in Colombia endangered Venezuela due to the doctrine of 'pre-emptive security,' he said. 'They assume the right to attack any country with whatever excuse.'    
'Colombia, the Israel of South America - this is an aim of the United States,' he said. The United States could spy from Colombia on other South American countries, he added.

Last month, Colombia and the United States signed a pact increasing US access to military bases in Colombia. Washington is relocating its regional anti-narcotics hub to Colombia from Ecuador.

Colombia, the most reliable US ally in South America, has drawn about $6 billion in mostly US military aid since 2000.

Chavez said that he told US President Barack Obama at a regional summit in Trinidad in April that they could work together to help resolve Colombia's internal conflict, apparently referring to the fight between leftist rebels there and the government.

'Lamentably it seems Obama listens only to matters of war,' Chavez said.-Reuters

Tags: Palestine | US | Venezuela | Hugo Chavez | Gaza conflict |

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