Hugo Chavez condemns Libya airstrikes as `madness`

Last Updated: Monday, March 21, 2011 - 08:52

Caracas: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez condemned what he called "indiscriminate bombing" by the US and its allies in Libya, saying on Sunday that the assault is unjustified and will only unleash more bloodshed.

Cuba`s government also criticised the attacks and called for the conflict to be resolved through negotiation.

Chavez said the US is after Libya`s oil, and warned President Barack Obama not to try any similar intervention in the South American country. "With Venezuela, don`t even think about it, Mr Obama," he said.

Chavez, who has long-standing ties to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, demanded the airstrikes be halted and echoed claims of civilian casualties by Libya`s government, which said 48 people were killed.

"Civilian victims have now begun to appear because some bombs are launched — 200, 400 bombs from out there at sea — and those bombs fall where they fall," Chavez said during his weekly television and radio program.

In Washington, however, the Pentagon said there were no reports of civilian casualties in the air assault. US Navy Vice Admiral William E Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the strikes had inflicted heavy damage and largely silenced Gaddafi`s air defences.

"Libya is under imperial fire. Nothing justifies this," Chavez said, holding up a newspaper showing an explosion on the front page.

"Indiscriminate bombing," he said. "Who gave those countries the right? Neither the United States, nor France, nor England, nor any country has the right to be dropping bombs."

Chavez said African Union leaders were meeting in Mauritania to discuss the conflict.

"That`s what must be done, and going there to talk with the parties in the conflict, but not launching bombs, more bombs, more death," Chavez said.

"Let`s try to help, to intercede between the parties," he said. "A ceasefire, sitting down at a table. That`s the path when facing conflicts of this sort."

In Havana, Cuba`s Foreign Ministry said the Libyan conflict should be solved "through dialogue and negotiation, not by military means”.

"Cuba expresses its strongest condemnation of foreign intervention in the internal conflict" of Libya, said a statement from the ministry read on Cuban television news.

On Saturday, delegates at a meeting in Bolivia of the left-leaning ALBA bloc condemned the airstrikes by the US and its allies. The group includes Venezuela, Cuba and six other Latin American and Caribbean nations.

"We repeat our message from Venezuela, from the ALBA: We demand a halt to the attack against Libya," Chavez said on Sunday. "What madness. ... It`s imperial madness."

Chavez used his customary term "the empire" for the United States, accusing it of trying to overthrow Gaddafi simply to seize control of Libya`s oil. "They don`t care about the lives of the Libyan people," he said.

Chavez mocked US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for expressing support for popular uprisings in the Arab world. "Man, what cynicism," Chavez said.

"I hope a revolution blows up on them in the United States. Let`s see what they`re going to do," he said.

Chavez has suggested that reports of atrocities by Gaddafi`s troops have been overblown or unproven as the Libyan government has sought to crush the uprising by rebels.

Chavez`s criticisms were echoed by some non-ALBA nations, including Paraguay, where President Fernando Lugo said: "I regret that the United Nations has legitimised those attacks."

But Peruvian President Alan Garcia praised the US and its allies for defending Libyans against a regime that has attacked opponents to try to cling to power.

"I think it`s very important that the world`s nations unite to prevent this type of butchery and massacres that aim to silence people`s just protests," Garcia said in Lima.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, March 21, 2011 - 08:52

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