Venezuela 'to sever Israel ties
Hugo Chavez has been a harsh critic of Israel's policies


The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has said his country is likely to sever ties with Israel in protest at its military offensive in Lebanon.

Mr Chavez said he had "no interest" in maintaining relations with Israel, whom he has accused of committing genocide.

Venezuela recalled its charge d'affaires to Israel last week, prompting Israel to withdraw its ambassador to Caracas on Monday.

Mr Chavez recently expressed his support for Israel's arch-foe, Iran.

In a televised speech, Mr Chavez said he had "no interest in maintaining diplomatic relations, or offices, or businesses, or anything with a state like Israel".

Mr Chavez rounded on Israel at the weekend, accusing the Jewish state of committing a "new Holocaust".

"Israel has gone mad. It's attacking, doing the same thing to the Palestinian and Lebanese people that they have criticised - and with reason - the Holocaust. But this is a new Holocaust."

The Venezuelan president has also angered Israel by showing support for Iran, which backs Hezbollah and has said the answer to the crisis in Lebanon is the elimination of Israel.

During a visit to Tehran at the end of last month, Mr Chavez said Venezuela would "stand by Iran at any time and under any condition".

Israel said it had withdrawn its ambassador to Venezuela "as an act of protest against the one-sided policy of the president of Venezuela and in light of his wild slurs against the State of Israel".