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Chavez laughs off US allegations

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has condemned as laughable a US government decision to blacklist four of his allies for allegedly aiding Colombian rebels.

He challenged Washington to present proof and said he is starting his own list of international rogues that would include some US politicians and Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The US Treasury Department on Thursday accused a Venezuelan general, an intelligence official and two other political allies of Mr Chavez of providing arms, security and training to Colombia's main rebel group.

"The list the Treasury Department has released ... is something to laugh at," Mr Chavez said in a televised appearance at the presidential palace.

"I challenge President (Barack) Obama to present evidence of that infamy."

Mr Chavez said he defends "the honour of the four countrymen unfairly accused in that list".

Those named by the US included congressman Freddy Bernal, General Cliver Alcala Cordones, intelligence official Ramon Isidro Madriz Moreno and Amilcar Figueroa, who has represented Venezuela in the multi-national advisory body the Latin American Parliament.

The US agency's Office of Foreign Assets Control said the four had closely collaborated with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, supporting the rebel group's "narcotics and arms trafficking activities".

The Venezuelans were added to US Foreign Narcotics Kingpins list, freezing any assets they might have in the US and barring Americans from doing business with them.

"I also have my list, the Chavez list. Sanction Ileana Ros-Lehtinen," he said, referring to the Republican congresswoman from Florida who is a staunch critic of his government.

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