Sunday, May 14, 2006

Chavez to ignore Blair on UK trip

Chavez to ignore Blair on UK trip

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is to arrive in Britain for a private visit.

Mr Chavez, a radical leftist, will meet the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone as well as some Labour MPs and union leaders during his two-day trip.

But he will not meet Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom he has called a pawn of the "imperialist" US.

Mr Chavez controls a country with the world's fifth largest oil supply. On Friday Mr Blair urged Venezuela to use its energy resources responsibly.

The BBC's World Affairs correspondent Chris Morris says Mr Chavez is following in the footsteps of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Mr Chavez combines populist economics, authoritarian politics and a fundamental dislike of the United States - particularly the way he says it tries to dominate its neighbours, our correspondent says.

Staunch supporter

Mr Chavez has been spearheading a drive in Latin America for countries to nationalise their energy supplies - a campaign that has taken root in Bolivia - in a stated attempt to redirect profits to their own people.

His itinerary in the UK includes a talk on Venezuelan social reform on Sunday.

On Monday he will have lunch with Mr Livingstone, a staunch supporter, and will deliver a lecture in the evening.

On a previous trip to the UK in 2001 Mr Chavez warmly embraced Mr Blair, but has since fiercely criticised the UK's support for the war in Iraq.

Mr Blair's office has said a meeting was not requested this time and that Mr Chavez's visit was "private".

Mr Chavez arrives from the European-Latin America summit in Vienna.

While in Vienna, he said he would like to provide cheap heating oil for Europeans on low incomes as he had to needy Americans in the eastern US this winter.

Mr Blair also attended the summit, where he said Venezuela and Bolivia should act responsibly with their resources.

Story from BBC NEWS: