Venezuelan officials have denied reports that a group of U.S. lawmakers was prevented from entering Venezuela Monday after landing at the country's main airport near Caracas.

In a statement Tuesday, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry refuted allegations that officials kept the delegation's military jet on the ground for a least an hour without allowing the lawmakers to disembark.

The Ministry says a change in arrival gates caused the delay, and the congressional delegation never made contact with any airport officials.

But a U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack Tuesday said the Venezuelan government had in fact apologized for the incident. He also noted that U.S. officials tried to resolve the issue with the Venezuelan government while the plane was on the tarmac.

On Monday, the Congressional delegation (led by Illinois Republican Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee) arrived in Venezuela for a scheduled visit.

Relations between Washington and Caracas have been strained ever since populist President Hugo Chavez took office in 1999. Mr. Chavez has repeatedly accused the Bush administration of planning to invade Venezuela. Washington denies any such plans, and warns that Mr. Chavez is becoming an authoritarian threat to Venezuela's democracy and regional stability.