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Venezuela's UN ambassador resigns

National guardsmen clean up street barricades made by anti-President Hugo Chavez protesters Wednesday in Caracas, Venezuela.
National guardsmen clean up street barricades made by anti-President Hugo Chavez protesters Wednesday in Caracas, Venezuela.

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United Nations
Hugo Chavez

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Venezuela's ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday he was resigning his post in protest at the policies of the government of President Hugo Chavez , who is fighting a movement to oust him.

Milos Alcalay told a news conference at U.N. headquarters that his key concerns throughout a 34-year diplomatic career were to promote democracy, human rights and a non-confrontational foreign policy.

"Sadly, Venezuela now is operating devoid of these fundamental principles, which I still remain intensely committed to, he said.

"The increasing bipolarization and problems we are experiencing at home in Venezuela have impacted our relationships around the world," he said.

The announcement took the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and his U.N. colleagues by surprise as an official announcement had been published just two days earlier in Caracas that Alcalay's next diplomatic posting would be as ambassador to London.

In Caracas, a leading political ally of Chavez in the National Assembly condemned Alcalay's resignation as hypocritical.

"Milos Alcalay looks very bad because everyone remembers him as an apologist, a defender, in extreme terms, of the foreign policy of President Hugo Chavez's government," said Tarek William Saab, president of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee.

There was no immediate official reaction in Caracas, but a Foreign Ministry source in Caracas, who asked not to be named, told Reuters, "It's a private decision by a person who had supported the government of President Hugo Chavez, but has now apparently broken as a result of the events in Venezuela."

The oil-rich country has been shaken anti-government protests demanding that President Hugo Chavez to submit to a recall vote.

Foes who accuse the left-wing Chavez of ruling like a dictator say he is manipulating electoral officials to block their bid for a referendum against him. He says the referendum petition is riddled with fraud.

Alcalay said the actions of the National Electoral Council, which has ordered the reconfirmation of more than 1 million disputed pro-referendum signatures, "rob Venezuelans of the right to affect change through the democratic process."

The protesters have set up burning barricades and battled with troops, accusing Chavez of trying to block the recall vote. The violence has shut some businesses and schools but has not hit the strategic oil industry in Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest crude exporter and a top U.S. supplier.

However, it has raised fears that the country risks a repeat of the political mayhem that briefly toppled Chavez in a 2002 coup and disrupted oil exports more than a year ago.

Chavez, a maverick populist who still commands strong support among some of Venezuela's poor, says wealthy business elites backed by the U.S. government are trying to topple him.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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