Official denies Gadhafi headed to Venezuela

Caracas (Venezuela), Feb 22 (AP) Venezuela''s informationminister denied suggestions that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafiwas headed to this South American country.

Andres Izarra said in an e-mail sent to The AssociatedPress that "it''s false" that Gadhafi is flying to Venezuela.

He did not elaborate.

Izarra was responding to inquiries about a statement byBritish Foreign Secretary William Hague, who said he had seen"some information to suggest" Gadhafi was on his way toVenezuela.

Hague spoke after a meeting of European Union foreignministers that sharply condemned Libyan authorities for theircrackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

But EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton dismissedHague''s comment, saying she knew nothing about it. EUofficials who attended the ministerial meeting also describedthe report as "unfounded rumors."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an ally of Gadhafi.

The Venezuelan foreign ministry yesterday released astatement saying Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro was told byLibyan counterpart, Moussa Koussa, that Gadhafi was in Libya''scapital "confronting the situation that''s gripping thecountry."

The statement said that during the phone conversation,Maduro referred to "the historic friendship between theVenezuelan and Libyan people" and told Koussa that he hoped"the Libyan people, exercising their sovereignty, find apeaceful solution to their difficulties."

Maduro also condemned what the statement called"imperialist meddling" during the recent unrest in the MiddleEast.

The communique said Maduro and Koussa agreed "to sharefirsthand information regarding the evolution of thesituation" in Libya.

Chavez, who shares Gadhafi''s antagonistic stance towardthe United States, last met with his Libyan counterpart inOctober during a trip to Tripoli, where officials signedeconomic cooperation agreements.

During his visit, Chavez received an honorary degree fromTripoli''s Academy of Higher Education. (AP) BDS

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