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US Condemns Venezuelan Bombings

The United States is condemning the bomb attacks early Tuesday against Spanish and Colombian diplomatic offices in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. The bombings followed criticism of the two countries by President Hugo Chavez on Sunday for alleged meddling in the Venezuela's political crisis.

Officials here say the early-morning explosions at the Spanish embassy and the Colombian consulate were the latest in a troubling series of events in Venezuela since last week, highlighting the need for progress in dialogue between President Chavez and the opposition.

The powerful blasts, within a 15-minute span, injured at least four people and caused material damage at the diplomatic posts and nearby buildings.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker condemned the bombings and called for an "expeditious and thorough" investigation of the attacks, which he noted had followed criticism of the two governments, among others, by President Chavez.

Spokesman Reeker said the attacks, and other recent developments in the long-running political crisis, underscore the need for the Venezuelan parties to uphold an agreement they made only last week to avoid violence and curb political incitement:

"It's regrettable that recent events like the unsolved killing of members of Venezuela's armed forces and police, the recent arrests and the threat of arrests of opposition activists and now today's bombings stand in sharp contrast to the commitments that were undertaken by both sides in that agreement," he said. "The pledge from February 18 specifically emphasized the need to curb confrontational rhetoric and moderate the tone, style and content of language, and to reject any manifestations of violence or intolerance."

The bombings came less than two days after President Chavez had criticized Spain and Colombia, along with the United States and Organization of American States Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria, for alleged interference in Venezuela's internal affairs.

All of them had spoken out against the arrest last week of business leader Carlos Fernandez, a key figure in the two-month general strike against Mr. Chavez that faded out earlier this month. Another strike leader, labor federation chief Carlos Ortega has gone into hiding in the face of a warrant for his arrest.

The OAS chief, Mr. Gaviria, has been trying to mediate an end to the Venezuelan political conflict. The United States, Spain and Colombia are among members of an international "group of friends" aimed at supporting the negotiating process.