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Friday, September 9, 2011

Latin American bloc warns against NATO action in Syria

Latin America’s leftist ALBA bloc of nations on Friday called NATO’s actions in Libya a “dangerous precedent” and warned against a similar campaign in Syria, where protesters pleaded for international protection.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, a prominent voice in the bloc, often warns of possible US aggression against his oil-rich country. He has pointed to the months-long NATO campaign in Libya as an example of “imperialist” aggression.

After meeting in Caracas, ALBA foreign ministers issued a statement saying the bloc “expresses its most urgent alarm over the threat that this same process could be repeated against Syria, taking advantage of the country's political problems.”

Taking its inspiration from South American independence hero Simon Bolivar, the bloc’s full name is the “Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.”

It was born in 2004 as an initiative of Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro, both critics of US “hegemonic” influence.

Pro-democracy protesters in Syria meanwhile on Friday called for international protection after six months of bloody rebellion.

Syria’s government has responded to the protests, inspired by Arab popular uprisings that have toppled three autocratic leaders in North Africa this year, with military assaults in which the United Nations says 2,200 people have died.

In Libya, fighters launched assaults on the final bastions of Muammar Gaddafi loyalists on Friday, with battles reported inside the holdout town of Bani Walid and near the ousted ruler's home town of Sirte.

Though Venezuela and Cuba are the loudest voices in ALBA, the group also comprises Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Vincente and the Grenadines.

“The ministers agree to promote a discussion in the United Nations General Assembly about the dangerous precedent that has been set in Libya,” their statement said.
Chavez also said Washington's blacklisting of four of his officials this week for alleged links to drug-running Colombian rebels was a sign that Washington had Venezuela in its sights.

Highly sensitive over persistent allegations of collaboration with guerrillas in neighboring Colombia, the Chavez government has reacted with fury at the US Treasury Department's measures against the four men.

“Let them present just one bit of proof against us,” Chavez said, in the latest flare-up between the ideologically-opposed nations who nevertheless maintain a massive oil trade.


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