Chavez Rejects Obama's New US Ambassador

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Al Jazeera

Chavez Rejects Obama's New US Ambassador


"Palmer disqualified himself by breaking all the rules of diplomacy. He can't come here as ambassador" -- Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan president

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has said
he will not allow the newly-nominated US envoy to take up his post in
Caracas, following comments over Venezuela's alleged links with
Colombian rebels.

He said Barack Obama, the US president, should "look for another
candidate" to replace Larry Palmer, whose nomination as ambassador to
Venezuela is pending confirmation by the senate.

"How can you think I'd accept this gentleman
coming here?" Chavez said on Sunday in his weekly "Alo Presidente" radio
and television show. "You'd best withdraw him, Obama. Don't insist, I'm
asking you."

Palmer last month voiced concern about Cuba's growing influence in
the Venezuelan military, which, according to him was "considerably low"
in morale and professionalism.

In written answers during a confirmation hearing,
Palmer also said there were "clear ties" between leftist Colombian
rebels and Chavez's government.

On Thursday the Venezuelan foreign
ministry protested Palmer's statements as "interference and
interventionism" and asked the United States for an explanation before
he was confirmed in his post.

"[Palmer] disqualified himself by breaking all the rules of
diplomacy. He messed with all of us. He can't come here as ambassador,"
Chavez said.

"The best thing the United States government can do is to look for another candidate [for ambassador to Venezuela]."

Chavez denies he gives haven to the rebels and he severed diplomatic
relations with Colombia on July 22 over allegations that Venezuela is
ignoring the presence of rebel camps inside the country.

Palmer, who has served as ambassador in Honduras and charge
d'affaires in Ecuador, was picked to try to manage the US' difficult
relationship with Venezuela.

Mending ties

Meanwhile, Chavez will meet Juan Manuel Santos, the new Colombian
president, in Bogota, on Tuesday for talks to try to end a diplomatic

Santos was inaugurated as the Colombian president on Saturday and
immediately offered to talk with Chavez in hopes of mending
Colombia-Venezuela ties.

"We had a frank and direct dialogue, with both our countries' aim to
restore relations within a framework of transparency," Maria Angela
Holguin, the Colombian foreign minister, said on Sunday.

Chavez, who sent his foreign minster Nicolas Maduro to the
swearing-in ceremony, said he was willing to "turn the page" and work
with Santos, even offering to go to Bogota if necessary.

Venezuela broke off ties with Colombia last month in the latest swing in their on-again, off-again relationship.

Call to disarm

Earlier Chavez called on Colombian rebels to lay down arms and warned
Santos' government to avoid accusations his country was helping the
guerrilla movement.

Santos' predecessor Alvaro Uribe while in office had accused Chavez's government of sheltering Colombian rebels.

Chavez tried to deflect the accusations by calling on them to give up
their decades-old armed struggle and seek a negotiated solution.

"The guerrillas should come out in favour of peace. They should
release all their hostages," he said during his television show. "They
have no future by staying armed."

"Furthermore they have become an excuse for the [US] empire to
intervene in Colombia and threaten Venezuela from there," he added, a
reference to the US military presence in Colombia.

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