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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-316286 Pentagon / Venezuela (L O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=5/28/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=PENTAGON / VENEZUELA (L O)

NUMBER=2-316286

BYLINE= ALEX BELIDA

DATELINE=PENTAGON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: The Pentagon says U-S military relations with Venezuela are under review -- a move that follows Venezuela's demand for the withdrawal of U-S advisers from a Caracas military compound. More from V-O-A Correspondent Alex Belida at the Pentagon.

TEXT: The Pentagon says the 17-member U-S military group was withdrawn from Fort Tiuna in Caracas this week following a request from Venezuela's minister of defense.

The U-S advisory group had been based at the facility since 1963. The Pentagon says it has now been relocated to the American Embassy.

A Defense Department spokeswoman (Lieutenant Commander Barbara Burfeind) coupled the announcement of the move with the disclosure that the Pentagon is now conducting a review of the U-S military relationship with Venezuela.

The spokeswoman provides no details. But Pentagon sources, speaking to V-O-A on condition of anonymity, say the decision to re-examine security ties is what the sources term "a fairly serious move" in light of the long-standing military relationship between the two countries.

These sources acknowledged the defense review could lead to the withdrawal of the U-S military advisory group.

Members of the group have been maintaining what defense officials described as a "low-key" posture because of tensions in the overall relationship between Washington and Caracas.

U-S-Venezuelan ties have been strained since President Hugo Chavez accused American military group members in Caracas of involvement in a coup against him two years ago -- a charge denied by the Pentagon.

An anti-Chavez recall effort is under way in Venezuela. Defense officials say the withdrawal of U-S military group members from Venezuela could deprive the president of an excuse to accuse the American soldiers of conspiring against him or playing a role in any violence that might erupt. (Signed)

NEB/BEL/KL/FC



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