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Argentina Restricts US Ambassador's Contacts


The Argentine government says it will restrict its contacts with the U.S. ambassador in response to U.S. allegations that Venezuela attempted to finance the campaign of Argentina's new president.

Argentine officials say U.S. Ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne will now only be able to communicate with their government through the Foreign Ministry. They also say Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana met with Ambassador Wayne Tuesday to register Argentina's complaint about the accusation about President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's campaign.

Wayne later issued a statement saying he would pass on Foreign Minister Taiana's message to Washington through official channels. Wayne said he conveyed to Taiana the belief that the bilateral relationship is important to both countries.

U.S. authorities have alleged Venezuela tried to smuggle $800,000 into Argentina to support President Fernandez's recent electoral bid. President Fernandez has denounced the accusations as "garbage."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also called the allegations a big lie.

A Venezuelan businessman has been at the center of the scandal since he was caught in Argentina in August with a briefcase containing the cash, which was confiscated. The businessman, Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, arrived in Miami, Florida shortly after the incident. Argentina is seeking his extradition.

U.S. authorities recently arrested four South American men and charged them with being illegal, undeclared agents for Venezuela, alleging the defendants attempted to conceal the source of the funds. A U.S. prosecutor involved with the case also has said two of the defendants offered Antonini $2 million to keep silent about the alleged campaign funds.

The defendants face a fine and 10-year prison sentences if convicted. A fifth suspect remains at large.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Bloomberg.

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