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Chavez: U.S. distorting situation in Libya 'to justify an invasion'

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Let's not get carried away by the drums of war," Venezuela's Hugo Chavez says
  • The Venezuelan leader proposes sending a goodwill commission to mediate in Libya
  • Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Chavez have a close relationship
  • Chavez claims "a campaign of lies is being woven" about Libya

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(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims U.S. criticism of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has a clear aim: military invasion.

"Let's not get carried away by the drums of war, because the United States, I am sure that they are exaggerating and distorting things to justify an invasion," Chavez said Monday, according to Venezuelan state media.

At a Monday meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States was exploring "all possible options," and that "nothing is off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to threaten and kill Libyan citizens."

Asked at a news conference Monday whether the United States planned an imminent military response in Libya, Clinton said, "No."

Speaking Monday in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, Chavez proposed sending an international committee to Libya to mediate and help develop a peaceful solution to unrest in the North African country.

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"Instead of sending Marines and tanks and planes, why don't we send a goodwill commission to try to help so that they do not continue killing in Libya? They are our brothers," he said in a speech televised on the government-run network.

Chavez and Gadhafi have a close relationship, having bonded partly over shared opposition to U.S. global influence.

At a lavish Tripoli celebration commemorating 40 years of Gadhafi's leadership in 2009, the two leaders sat side by side during a two-hour military parade. That same year, a new football stadium in Benghazi, Libya, was named after the Venezuelan leader.

As rumors swirled about Gadhafi and his whereabouts last week, some suggested that he may be en route to Venezuela. Those reports proved to be false; the Libyan leader later spoke publicly in Tripoli.

But the close ties between the two leaders remain strong. On Monday, Chavez said Gadhafi "has been my friend and our friend for a long time" in remarks broadcast on Venezuelan state television.

"We must be cautious. We know what our policy is: We do not support invasions or massacres or anything, no matter who does it. But there is no doubt that, regarding Libya, a campaign of lies is being woven -- the same that has been woven about Venezuela for a long time," he said.

The U.N. Security Council over the weekend voted for tough restrictions and possible war crimes charges against the Libyan regime.

The Security Council measures -- which include an arms embargo, an asset freeze and travel bans for Gadhafi and members of his family and associates -- also referred the situation unfolding in Libya to the International Criminal Court.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that the U.S. government was considering the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

"Col. Gadhafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency. Through their actions, they have lost the legitimacy to govern," Clinton said Monday.

"And the people of Libya have made themselves clear: It is time for Gadhafi to go, now, without further violence or delay."

CNN's Nelson Quinones contributed to this report.

 
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