Published on Friday, September 16, 2005 by the Associated Press
by Kim Gamel
UNITED NATIONS – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took President Bush to task in front of a global summit for waging war in Iraq without U.N. consent and won rousing applause for his critique.
The leftist leader told a U.N. summit on Thursday that fighting the war without U.N. authorization showed Washington did not respect the world body. He recommended moving U.N. headquarters to a country that has more regard for the organization.
“There were never weapons of mass destruction but Iraq was bombed, and over U.N. objections, (it was) occupied and continues being occupied,” Chavez said. Bush alleged that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction but none have been found, shattering one of his main arguments for going to war.
“That’s why we propose to this assembly that the United Nations leave this country, which is not respectful of the very resolutions of this assembly,” Chavez said.
Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, suggested moving U.N. headquarters New York to an international city “outside the sovereignty of any state” and said some have mentioned Jerusalem as one possibility.
But the Venezuelan leader said the new headquarters has to be in the South, home to most developing countries.
Bush was not in the audience when Chavez spoke to the world representatives. But the U.S. president did address the summit’s the opening session on Wednesday morning, then returned to Washington later that day.
World leaders at the summit had been asked to speak for five minutes but Chavez ran long and when the presiding diplomat passed him a note saying his time was up, he threw it on the floor. He said if Bush could speak for 20 minutes, so could he.
When he finally stopped, he got what observers said was the loudest applause of the summit.
Relations between Chavez and Washington have become increasingly strained, though the United States remains the top buyer of Venezuelan oil.
Chavez repeatedly has accused the U.S. government of backing plots against him, and recently alleged Washington was preparing to invade his country.
American religious broadcaster Pat Robertson recently suggested the United States assassinate Chavez because he poses a threat. Chavez responded that Robertson had clearly “expressed the wish of the elite that govern the United States.” Robertson has since apologized.
U.S. officials strongly deny the Venezuelan leader’s claims but have expressed concerns about the health of the country’s democracy under Chavez, who was first elected in 1998 pledging a social “revolution” for the poor majority.
The two leaders have clashed over a host of other issues as well.
Bush criticized Venezuela’s government earlier Thursday, saying the South American nation had “failed demonstrably” to make a concerted effort to block shipments of illicit narcotics to the United States and Europe last year.
Venezuela could have been subjected to a cutoff of U.S. assistance, but Bush decided to waive the provision because of national security interests.
In early August, Chavez accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of using its agents in Venezuela for espionage, and said Venezuela was suspending cooperation with the agency. The Bush administration denied the espionage charge.
Chavez, whose country is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, also warned the world is facing an unprecedented energy crisis.
He told reporters later the crisis will keep growing, “not because we the producers want it but because we are running out of oil.”
Chavez singled out the United States as the most wasteful country, saying he was shocked when a quarter of all the cars he counted Thursday morning on New York streets had one person in them.
“That’s crazy, one person with a huge car … that is using up gas and polluting the atmosphere,” he said at a news conference. “The world cannot tolerate this model of development called the American way of life.”
In a form of energy diplomacy, Chavez has extended a preferential oil trade deal called PetroCaribe to 13 Caribbean countries in what he says is part of a plan to challenge U.S. economic domination of the region.
Under the plan, Venezuela will soon sell up to 190,000 barrels of fuel a day to countries from Jamaica to St. Lucia, offering favorable financing while shipping fuel directly to reduce costs. It is expected to help those countries save millions of dollars.
Associated Press writer Ian James in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.