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Chavez Threatens to Cut Off Oil to US if it ‘Crosses the Line’

Feb. 19, 2006

CARACAS: Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez warned late Friday he was taking potential steps to cut off oil shipments to the United States, in the event Washington “crosses the line.”

“The US government must know that if it crosses the line it won’t be getting Venezuelan oil,” the leftist leader said, repeating similar threats he has made in his long, simmering dispute with the United States.

Chavez, who did not clarify how Washington might incur such a sanction, apparently was reacting to Thursday’s call by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice for an international “united front” against Venezuela.

“I have to say that I’ve begun taking steps on the matter, but I won’t tell you what they are,” Chavez told a meeting of pensioners in Caracas. “They think I can’t take these steps, because we won’t know where to place our oil. Aha! That’s where they are wrong,” Chavez said.

“Many countries ask us for more oil and we’ve had to answer that we can’t give them any more because, among other things, (of) the million and a half barrels of our production that goes to the United States.”

Rice called Chavez a “challenge to democracy” on Thursday and said Venezuela’s close ties with Cuba were “a particular danger in the region.”

She told the US Congress she had recently spoken of the Venezuelan problem on the telephone with the foreign ministers of Austria, Spain and Brazil.

“The international community has just got to be much more active in supporting and defending the Venezuelan people,” Rice said.

Chavez has called Rice’s remarks a “threat,” and accused US president George W Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair of launching a plan against Venezuela aimed at keeping him from being reelected in coming December elections.

“The plan has been launched. They are trying to get Spain, France, Germany and all of Europe against us,” Chavez said.

He called upon Venezuelans to embrace “resistance to imperialism”, his shorthand for the US government. afp