Iran General NewsChavez denies elite Iranian forces in Venezuela

Chavez denies elite Iranian forces in Venezuela

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ImageReuters: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Monday a U.S. report was "absolutely false" that Iranian special forces had an increasing presence in his South American nation. ImageCARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Monday a U.S. report was "absolutely false" that Iranian special forces had an increasing presence in his South American nation.

The report by the Pentagon to Congress earlier in April said the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' elite Qods force had a growing Latin American presence, "particularly in Venezuela."

That further fueled anxiety in Washington about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's increasing ties to the region, especially Brazil and Venezuela's fiery, socialist leader.

"Look at what they are saying," Chavez said during a ceremony carried on live television.

"If the U.S. applies sanctions to Iran, these forces that are here — something that is absolutely false — could then attack U.S. territory or U.S. interests with terrorist acts."

Chavez said the accusation was part of a tactic of intimidation against his government.

"Tell me this isn't an open threat by the government of the United States against Venezuela once again using infamy and lies," he said.

Chavez and Ahmadinejad, both vocally anti-American, have fostered ever-closer political and business ties between their OPEC member nations.

Venezuela supports Iran's nuclear program, despite the West's skepticism about Tehran's explanation that it is for peaceful purposes only.

(Reporting by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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