US expels Venezuelan diplomat over Iran cyber plot

Venezuela`s top diplomat in Miami has been declared to be persona non grata and must leave the United States by Tuesday.

Updated: Jan 09, 2012, 22:32 PM IST

Washington: In a move that will further strain US-Venezuela ties, the State Department has ordered a Venezuelan diplomat in Miami to leave the country by Tuesday for allegedly discussing an Iranian plot to launch cyber- attacks on the US.

The Venezuelan embassy in Washington was notified on Friday that Livia Acosta Noguera, the consul general in Miami, had been declared persona non grata and until Tuesday, had to leave the country, State Department spokesman William Ostick said.

"In accordance with Article 23 of the Vienna Convention
on Consular Relations, the department declared Ms Livia Acosta
Noguera, Venezuelan consul general to Miami, to be persona non
grata. As such, she must depart the United States by January
10," he said.

"We cannot comment on specific details behind the
decision to declare Ms Acosta persona non grata at this time,"
he said in the statement.

Last month a news report had said that Acosta had taken
part in discussions about possible cyber attacks against the
United States while she was stationed in the Venezuelan
Embassy in Mexico.

The report, broadcast on Univision, a Spanish-language
network, included fragments of what it said were taped
conversations with Acosta. In response to the report, several
members of Congress called for an investigation and for the
expulsion of Acosta if the allegations were proved to be true.

The tough US action comes as Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad kicked-off a Latin American visit by arriving in
the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

In Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made no
mention of Acosta`s expulsion in his radio and TV programme
yesterday but accused the US of "inventing" Iranian plots to
attack the US from Latin American countries like Venezuela,
Nicaragua and Cuba.

Chavez has long used his ties with Iran as a way to taunt
the United States, which he casts as an imperialist aggressor
seeking to topple his socialist government.