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Venezuela Rejects Inclusion in US Narcotics Blacklist


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has rejected a U.S. government designation of Venezuela as a country failing in anti-drug efforts.

Speaking Friday on state television, President Chavez dismissed the criticism, calling it "a new attack by the Yankee empire." The remark came one day after the White House released a memorandum designating Venezuela, Bolivia and Burma as countries that have failed demonstrably over the past year to abide by their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.

Venezuela is a major transit route to Europe and the United States for Colombian-produced cocaine.

President Chavez has said in the past that he is doing everything possible to fight drug trafficking. He often blames the drug problem on a high demand for cocaine among Americans.

Mr. Chavez also used the speech to repeat his opposition to the U.S. government's nominee to be the next ambassador to Venezuela, Larry Palmer.

Mr. Chavez previously rejected Palmer for saying the morale of Venezuela's military was low and that Colombian rebels have a presence in the neighboring country. The U.S. ambassador-designate made the comments several weeks ago in written replies to U.S. lawmakers as part of his confirmation process.

The State Department has said the Obama administration is sticking with its nominee, despite objections from Mr. Chavez.

In Friday's speech, Mr. Chavez said that if Washington decides to expel the Venezuelan ambassador as a result, then he is prepared for that.

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

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