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Chavez Will Try to Improve U.S. Relations

September 18, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) _ Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that he would attempt to improve his relations with Washington, which have been rocky in recent months.

``Sometimes I make mistakes, I tend to respond to any official from the government of Mr. Bush who verbally attacks Venezuela,″ Chavez said during a speech at a Manhattan church, his last public event in New York before heading to Cuba to meet with his close ally Fidel Castro.

Chavez said the Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., who sat with him at the church, had advised him ``not to be provoked″ by representatives of the U.S. government.

He acknowledged that he has occasionally ``gone too far with words″ when responding to U.S. officials who criticize his government, and he said his criticism of the Bush administration has sometimes been misunderstood as attacks against the American public.

``I love the people of the United States,″ he said.

In reference to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Chavez said it was justifiable for people in an invaded country to defend themselves.

``The true war we ask for is the war against poverty and misery,″ he said to rousing applause.

Two days earlier, Chavez harshly criticized President Bush in front of a United Nations summit for waging war in Iraq without U.N. consent.

Chavez also criticized U.N. reforms Saturday, saying they would permit powerful countries to invade developing ones whose leaders are considered a threat.

In a speech earlier Saturday that was broadcast on state-run television in Venezuela, Chavez said the document adopted at a U.N. summit Friday was developed without consensus and was ``invalid and illegal.″

He singled out a section of the document creating a Peacebuilding Commission that outlines a ``responsibility to protect.″ He called it suspicious, saying ``tomorrow or sometime in the future, someone in Washington will say that the Venezuelan people need to be protected from the tyrant Chavez, who is a threat.″

Chavez, a self-declared revolutionary, has often clashed with the U.S. government and has accused Washington of seeking to oust him _ a claim U.S. officials have denied, though they have expressed concern about Chavez’s ties with Castro and what opponents call his authoritarian tendencies.

The disagreements between the two sides drew more attention last month when religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested the United States ``take him out″ because Chavez poses a danger to the region. Chavez responded that Robertson clearly ``expressed the wish of the elite that govern the United States.″ Robertson later apologized, and the State Department said his remark had been inappropriate.

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Associated Press Writer Diego Santos contributed to this report.

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