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Chavez: Our oil reserve does not belong to Mr. Bush

BANGALORE - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday accused the United States of planning to portray his country as a security threat in order to capture its vast oil reserves.

"We are just waiting for the United States to announce next that Venezuela has weapons of mass destruction," Chavez said in a speech in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.

Chavez - who has repeatedly accused U.S. President George W. Bush of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Washington denies - said U.S. officials have called him "a threat" and a "destabilizing force" because they want an excuse to gain control over Venezuelan oil reserves.

"The United States government would very much like to keep all our oil for itself," Chavez said. "But our oil reserve does not belong to Mr. Bush. The oil belongs to the Venezuelan people."

On the first-ever visit to India by a Venezuelan leader, Chavez has criticized the United States throughout his four-day sojourn. The former paratrooper also took a shot at Washington over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"They went to Iraq thinking they will control Iraq's oil reserves ... but I doubt very much they will ever control that country," he said.

Relations between the United States and Venezuela have deteriorated steadily since Chavez took office in February 1999. The self-proclaimed "revolutionary" maintains close ties with Cuba's Fidel Castro.

On Friday, Chavez said his country would cut off oil supplies to the United States if Washington tries to "hurt" his country. "We want to supply oil to the United States... (But) if there is any aggression, there will be no oil," he warned.

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