May 15, 2006

US bans arms sales to Venezuela: official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington banned all U.S. arms
sales to Venezuela on Monday, citing the major oil supplier's
lack of help in the fight against terrorism, a State Department
official said.

The move comes after years of antagonism between leftist
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Washington on issues
ranging from trade to oil prices that have dragged relations to
their worst state in decades.

The United States is concerned about Chavez's friendly
relationship with Cuba and Iran, two countries it says sponsor
terrorism, and his failure to stop Colombian leftist guerrillas
using Venezuelan territory, the U.S. official, who was not
authorized to speak for the record, said.

The United States decided to punish Venezuela by adding it
to a blacklist of countries who are considered to "not fully
cooperate" against terrorism. Hours earlier, the State
Department announced it was restoring full diplomatic ties with
oil-producing Libya, rewarding the long-time pariah nation for
scrapping its weapons of mass destruction programs.

The arms ban means the United States prohibits all military
sales to the South American country and prevents any re-sales
of U.S. arms and technology from other nations, the official

It extends a practice of opposing third countries making
sales to Venezuela that the United States has been using
increasingly in recent months.

Venezuela, one of the world's top oil exporters, has warned
for months the United States would move against it over
terrorism but says it cooperates with Colombia against
guerrillas and denies its ties with U.S. foes mean that it
helps militants.

The U.S. official said the Bush administration considers
"the Venezuelan government showed a near total lack of
cooperation with anti-terrorism efforts last year."

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, who chairs the
House Permanent Select Committee on Republican Intelligence,
said in a statement: "The hostility shown by the Venezuelan
leadership toward the United States along with its efforts to
sow totalitarianism in the hemisphere, at the expense of the
Venezuelan people, should be alarming to everyone."