US escalates feud; calls Bolivia, Venezuela ‘desperate’ (Lead)

September 13th, 2008 - 12:26 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 12 (DPA) The decisions by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales, to expel the US ambassadors were “desperate moves” to counter growing internal opposition to their leadership, the US State Department said Friday in a sharp escalation of the diplomatic feud.”This reflects the weakness and desperation of these leaders as they face internal challenges and an inability to communicate effectively internationally in order to build international support,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

McCormack said the US has responded by ordering the Venezuelan and Bolivian ambassadors in Washington to leave, and rejected the accusations against the US envoys.

“The charges levelled against our fine ambassadors by the leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela are false and the leaders of those countries know it,” McCormack said.

Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department Friday froze any assets in the US belonging to two high-ranking Venezuelan intelligence officials and a third former official on suspicion of arming the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels in neighbouring Colombia.

“Today’s designation exposes two senior Venezuelan government officials and one former official who armed, abetted, and funded the FARC, even as it terrorized and kidnapped innocents,” said Adam J. Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The latest diplomatic turmoil began on Wednesday when Morales expelled US envoy Philip Goldberg. Chavez followed by requesting that the US ambassador in Caracas, Patrick Duddy, leave in what he called a show of solidarity with this leftist ally in the poor Andean nation.

Morales accused Goldberg of supporting groups in the country opposed to his socialist policies.

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