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Chavez to Renew Drug Efforts With U.S.

From Reuters

President Hugo Chavez said Monday that his government would renew cooperation with Washington in the fight against drug trafficking.

The conciliatory gesture followed weeks of sniping between Venezuela and the United States after the left-wing leader suspended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and accused its agents of spying.

Addressing reporters after meeting with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chavez said his government wanted to ease tensions with the Bush administration.

Despite the strained relations, “we are willing to continue working with the government of Mr. Bush in the fight against drugs,” Chavez said, with Jackson by his side.

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“We have no intention of damaging relations any further; on the contrary, we want to improve them in politics and in economics,” he said.

Relations between the United States and Venezuela, the world’s No. 5 oil exporter, have chilled since Chavez came to power in 1998 and forged close diplomatic ties with Cuba.

Washington portrays Chavez as a menace to the region, but the ex-soldier counters that his self-proclaimed revolution is an alternative to failed U.S.-backed policies in South America.

Last week, conservative U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson called on Washington to assassinate Chavez. Robertson later apologized, and American officials said his remarks had been inappropriate.

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