Venezuela Defends Iran, Blasts 'Hypocritical' US Policy On Terror

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Agence France Presse

Venezuela Defends Iran, Blasts 'Hypocritical' US Policy On Terror

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UNITED NATIONS - Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday used the General Assembly podium here to defend Iran and to blast Washington's "hypocritical" policy on terrorism.1003 08

He slammed the escalating international media campaign "aimed at demonizing the Iranian people and government" and called for an end "to the madness of the war in Iraq."

Pointing to the "threatening statements against the peace of the people of Iran," he said it was time "to stop this campaign of demonization..., to build alliances to stop the war-mongering madness of the elites who rule the United States."

Washington has not ruled out using military action to force Iran, which is suspected of trying to acquire nuclear weapons, to suspend its sensitive nuclear fuel work as demanded by the UN Security Council.

Maduro replaced his firebrand president, Hugo Chavez, who announced at the last minute that he would not travel to New York for the General Assembly session.

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Caracas for talks with Chavez, in a mini-tour of Iran's anti-US allies that also took him to Bolivia. He made the trip after visiting New York to address the UN General Assembly.

Venezuela and Bolivia have reached a number of trade and aid agreements with Iran, particularly in the energy sector.

Maduro also denounced Washington's "hypocritical" policy of combating terrorism while at the same time protecting "one of the most dangerous terrorists," Cuban anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles.

The minister renewed Caracas' request for the extradition of Posada, a former US Central Intelligence Agency operative wanted by Havana and Caracas in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.

The plane took off from Caracas and he is accused of plotting the bombing in Venezuela.

Posada, Maduro noted, "is free and protected by the US government in Florida. This terrorist has served the CIA for 40 years."

Maduro said he had turned to the Security Council's counter-terrorism committee for help in trying to secure Posada's extradition so that he can be tried in Venezuela.

Posada, 79, was released from prison last May by a Texas judge who dismissed immigration fraud charges leveled against him in May 2005 after he was arrested for allegedly entering the United States illegally.

US authorities have refused to honor extradition requests from Venezuela and Cuba -- where he is also sought in connection with the 1976 plane bombing -- citing a UN convention banning deportations to countries with a pattern of torture or flagrant human rights abuses.

Cuba also accuses Posada of planning several assassination attempts against Cuban President Fidel Castro, and of setting off bombs at several Havana hotels in 1997.

The Cuban-born Venezuelan has not been indicted in the United States for any of the attacks, though a grand jury in New Jersey is reportedly investigating his role in a 1997 Havana hotel bombing that killed an Italian tourist.

Despite his tongue-lashing of Washington, Maduro late Monday met with US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Tom Shannon at Venezuela's UN mission to discuss the testy bilateral ties.

© Agence France Presse

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