An American Christian minister who recently called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says the Venezuelan leader poses a nuclear threat to the United States.
In August, television evangelist Pat Robertson made headlines when he suggested the United States assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rather than watch the South American leader spread Marxist ideology throughout the region. Days later, Mr. Robertson apologized for the remarks.
But appearing on CNN's Late Edition program, Mr. Robertson, a one-time Republican presidential aspirant, made new charges against President Chavez.
"This man is setting up a Marxist-type dictatorship in Venezuela. He is trying to spread Marxism throughout South America. He is negotiating with the Iranians to get nuclear material, and he also sent $1.2 million in cash to Osama bin Laden right after [the terrorist attacks of] 9-11," said Mr. Robertson.
Mr. Robertson declined to say how he had learned of the accusations he was making, saying only that he was passing along information he had received. But while repeating that he does not believe Mr. Chavez should be killed, he characterized the Venezuelan leader as a problem that should be dealt with.
"One day we are going to be staring at nuclear weapons, and it will not be [Hurricane] Katrina facing New Orleans, it is going to be a Venezuelan nuke [weapon]. So my suggestion was, is it not a lot cheaper, sometimes, to deal with these problems before you have to have a big war?" he added.
The Bush administration has denied any plan to remove President Chavez from power, and says that Mr. Robertson's comments in no way reflect U.S. policy.
Venezuelan officials have described Mr. Robertson's August remarks as criminal and a form of terrorism. Venezuelan political analysts say Mr. Robertson's comments have played into the hands of Mr. Chavez, a self-avowed socialist who for years has accused the United States of plotting against him.