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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the U.S. of trying to create what he called the "opinion" that his country wants nuclear weapons.

Mr. Chavez made the comment during a televised Cabinet meeting late Wednesday, days after federal agents raided the home of a former U.S. government nuclear scientist who had contacts with an alleged Venezuelan government representative.

On Monday, FBI agents seized papers, computers and other items from the home of former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist P. Leonardo Mascheroni, who says the agents led him to believe he was being investigated for espionage.

Mascheroni says in 2008, a man claiming to represent the Venezuelan government agreed to pay him several hundred thousand dollars for technical information.  Mascheroni says he provided unclassified information but was never paid.

In his speech Wednesday, Mr. Chavez read aloud a New York Times report of the incident and called the probe a plan against his government.

Venezuela has been strengthening ties with Russia as well as Iran -- a country the U.S. and its Western allies have accused of trying to develop nuclear weapons.  Mr. Chavez recently reiterated his commitment to developing a nuclear energy program for peaceful purposes with help from Russia.

Mascheroni was laid off from Los Alamos in 1988 and had been advocating a type of laser fusion that involves using the sun as an energy source.   

He is a native of Argentina but is a naturalized U.S. citizen.  He told news organizations (The New York Times, AP) that if he were a spy, he would have left the U.S. a long time ago.




Some information for this report was provided by AP.