Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said he was temporarily detained, threatened and stripped of his travel documents at a New York airport, a claim denied by the US government.
The incident came just a few days after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called his American counterpart George W. Bush the "devil" in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
"I was detained in a room ... for an an hour and 40 minutes" at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Maduro told CNN television in remarks broadcast on Venezuelan television.
"Then they handed me to a delegation headed by our UN ambassador (Francisco Arias Cardenas)."
"I denounce before the world the US government. I ask UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that he speak about this case, that investigations be opened. I demand that the US government respect international rights."
Maduro, who attended the UN General Assembly in New York this week, said "the situation got worse" when he identified himself as Venezuela's chief diplomat.
"I told the on-duty officials that I was the foreign minister, and the situation got worse because they started insulting, yelling and brought a police officer ... and they started threatening us," Maduro said.
"Now I have no documents and cannot travel," he said.
At a later news conference, Maduro said: "We were threatened with being beaten," calling the incident a "complex, shameful situation and an attack against international law".
The US Homeland Security Department denied Maduro's claims.
"There's no evidence to support any of this," US Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke told AFP by telephone.
"There's no evidence to support the claim that his travel documents were taken away, there's no evidence to support the claim that he was assaulted, there's no evidence to support the claim that he was somehow arrested or taken into custody," he said.
Knocke said Maduro was simply asked to go through a routine, secondary security screening.
"The department was able to confirm his identity in secondary screening as the foreign minister of Venezuela. In that process the foreign minister elected to not travel," he said.
Earlier, Chavez accused Bush of ordering his assassination for his "devil" remark Wednesday at the UN General Assembly.
"The devil appears very sulphurous, and a few people say that he has given the order to kill me," Chavez said during a speech before scientists in western Venezuela.
"Many concerned friends have called me, (saying) that because I said 'devil' over there (at the UN), they have sentenced me to die. They will not kill me, I have much faith in life," Chavez added.
Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel also linked Maduro's detention to the "devil" comment.
"It is an attack against the foreign minister, unheard of, unspeakable in terms of the treatment that people with positions like Minister Maduro deserve," Rangel said.
Chavez said Maduro had been detained for allegedly taking part in a failed coup attempt in Venezuela on February 4, 1992, that Chavez had led against then-president Carlos Andres Perez.
But Chavez said Maduro was not involved in the coup.
"Apparently he is on a list for February 4," Chavez said on Venezuelan television. "But he was not in the rebellion."
© Copyright 2006 AFP