Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took President George W. Bush to task in front of a global summit for waging war in Iraq without UN consent and won rousing applause for his critique.
Mr. Chavez told the UN summit that fighting the war without UN authorization showed Washington’s lack of respect for the world body. He recommended moving UN headquarters to a country that has more regard for the organization.
“There were never weapons of mass destruction, but Iraq was bombed, and, over UN objections, (it was) occupied and continues being occupied,” he said.
Mr. Bush alleged that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction but none have been found, shattering one of his main arguments for going to war.
“That’s why we propose to this assembly that the United Nations leave this country, which is not respectful of the very resolutions of this assembly,” Mr. Chavez said.
Mr. Chavez suggested moving the UN headquarters in New York to an international city “outside the sovereignty of any state” and said some have mentioned Jerusalem as one possibility.
But the Venezuelan leader said the new headquarters should be in the South, home to most developing countries.
Mr. Bush was not in the audience when Mr. Chavez spoke Thursday to the world representatives.
World leaders at the summit had been asked to speak for five minutes, but Mr. Chavez ran long.
When the presiding diplomat passed him a note saying his time was up, he threw it on the floor, saying that if Mr. Bush could speak for 20 minutes, so could he.
When he finally stopped, he got what observers said was the loudest applause of the summit.
Relations between Mr. Chavez and Washington have become increasingly strained, although the United States remains the top buyer of Venezuelan oil.
Mr. Chavez repeatedly has accused Washington of backing plots against him, and he recently alleged Washington was preparing to invade his country.
U.S. religious broadcaster Pat Robertson recently suggested that the United States assassinate Mr. Chavez, elected in 1998 pledging a social “revolution” for the poor majority.
Mr. Robertson has since apologized.
U.S. officials strongly deny the Venezuelan President’s accusations but have expressed concerns about the health of the country’s democracy under him.
The two leaders have clashed over a host of other issues as well.
Mr. Bush criticized Venezuela’s government earlier Thursday, saying the South American nation had “failed demonstrably” to make a concerted effort to block shipments of illicit narcotics to the United States and Europe last year.
Venezuela could have been subjected to a cutoff of U.S. assistance, but Mr. Bush decided to waive the provision because of national security interests.
In early August, Mr. Chavez accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of using its agents in Venezuela for espionage, and said Venezuela was suspending co-operation with the agency.
Mr. Chavez, whose country is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, also warned that the world is facing an unprecedented energy crisis.
He told reporters later the crisis will keep growing, “not because we, the producers, want it but because we are running out of oil.”
Mr. Chavez singled out the United States as the most wasteful country, saying he was shocked when one-quarter of all the cars he counted Thursday morning on New York streets had only one person in them.
“That’s crazy, one person with a huge car … that is using up gas and polluting the atmosphere,” he said at a news conference. “The world cannot tolerate this model of development called the American way of life.”
In a form of energy diplomacy, Mr. Chavez has extended a preferential oil trade deal called PetroCaribe to 13 Caribbean countries – including Cuba – in what he says is part of a plan to challenge U.S. economic domination of the region.
Under the plan, Venezuela will soon sell up to 190,000 barrels of fuel a day to countries from Jamaica to St. Lucia, offering favourable financing while shipping fuel directly to reduce costs. It is expected to help those countries save millions of dollars. Globe & Mail, Kim Gamel, Associated Press