Friday, April 4, 2008

Venezuela warns U.S. over applying terrorism label

Venezuela warned the United States on Thursday against listing the OPEC nation as a state sponsor of terrorism, citing a potential for lost exports and jobs and noting the importance of Venezuelan oil exports.

The United States has said it is investigating Colombian allegations that leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offered the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas in Colombia $300 million.

In March a senior U.S. official said new information about possible links between Venezuela and FARC were disturbing but Washington was far from a decision to declare Caracas a state sponsor of terrorism. Washington classifies FARC as a terrorist group.

"There have been recent indications that the Bush administration and its congressional allies want to designate Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism," Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's Ambassador to the United States said in a speech to lawyers and investors in New York.

"There will be very grave economic consequences if a politically driven measure like this is taken. Just think about the $10.2 billion lost U.S. exports to Venezuela, 230,000 manufacturing jobs tied to exports and 1.58 million barrels of oil a day from Venezuela," he said.

Five countries are now on Washington's terrorism blacklist: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

Alvarez also noted the terrorism designation, which could lead to sanctions on Venezuela, would increase commercial costs and place a number of restrictions on U.S. businesses looking to invest in Venezuela.

"Any action like this would have economic and political consequences, not only for the U.S.-Venezuela relationship as a whole, but also within the region. This would be seen as an effort to breed instability in the region," he said.

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