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Chavez: 'Friendly bloc' can mediate

President Hugo Chavez has spoken to Muammar Gaddafi about creating a bloc of friendly countries to help mediate a resolution to Libya's crisis, Venezuela's information minister said.

Mr Chavez, who has forged close ties with Gaddafi and refused to condemn him for his crackdown on protesters, spoke to the Libyan leader on Tuesday, information minister Andres Izarra said through Twitter.

Venezuela has already reached out to its allies in Latin America and beyond to discuss the creation of a friendly bloc of nations - dubbed the Committee of Peace - to mediate the crisis. Venezuelan officials did not say how Gaddafi had responded to the proposal.

Foreign minister Nicolas Maduro said the creation of such a bloc could help resolve the conflict in Libya, adding that his government felt diplomacy rather than military threats should be used to end the violence sweeping the North African nation.

Mr Maduro criticised the US and the European Union for adopting policies aimed at isolating Gaddafi and raising the possibility of providing military support to Libyans rebelling against the embattled leader.

Such policies "point at giving the empire authorisation for an invasion against the Libyan people", Mr Maduro said, according to the state-run AVN news agency.

Left-winger Mr Chavez - who shares a mutual opposition to Washington with Gaddafi - has said he will not cave in to international pressure to condemn Gaddafi and has warned that Washington is preparing a military invasion of Libya.

"Hopefully in the coming days we could create a committee of friendly countries that go to talk with the government of Col Gaddafi as well as the opposition that his taken up arms in some regions," Mr Maduro said.

Mr Chavez has built close ties with Libya and visited the Arab country several times.

In 2004 Gaddafi awarded him the Libyan leader's annual human rights prize for battling "the effects of imperialism and the enemies of freedom inside and outside" Venezuela.

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