Brasilia: Despite a simmering diplomatic row, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were seen having a brief, friendly chat at the inauguration of Brazil`s President Dilma Rousseff.
The encounter on Saturday came only three days after the United States revoked the visa of Venezuela`s ambassador in Washington, in reprisal for Chavez`s rejection of the US President`s appointed ambassador to Caracas.
A Brazilian official who witnessed the encounter said, “It looked like a social conversation, both were smiling," and Chavez later confirmed the amiable tenor of their conversation in an interview with Venezuelan state television.
"Mrs Clinton, the secretary of state, appeared. She was smiling, very pleased, and so was I," said Chavez. "We greeted each other and spoke about a few things," he said.
"It was a pleasant moment, but we took advantage of it and spoke of two or three timely things," he said without elaborating.
Chavez and Hillary mingled with the Presidents of Chile and Colombia and the Prime Minister of Portugal while waiting to meet Rousseff.
At one point, Chavez extended his hand to Hillary, who shook it, smiling. They chatted for a few minutes before moving on to formally greeting Rousseff.
Chavez on Tuesday reaffirmed his decision to reject diplomat Larry Palmer as President Barack Obama`s ambassador-designate to Caracas, and challenged Washington to break off diplomatic relations if it didn`t like it.
The State Department responded the following day by revoking the visa of Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez, who was in Venezuela on vacation.
A US State Department spokesman on Wednesday said the visa revocation was an "appropriate, proportional and reciprocal action”, recalling that Washington had already warned of "consequences" if Caracas turned down the US ambassador-designate.
Palmer infuriated Chavez by criticising his government during Senate confirmation hearings in August. He is still awaiting confirmation by the US Senate.