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Germany

Merkel Downplays Dispute with Chavez Ahead of Summit

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of groundlessly bombarding him "with stones" on Wednesday, May 14, continuing a war of words between the two leaders

Angela Merkel and Hugo Chavez

Merkel said she can "look after herself" at the EU-Latin America summit

While on a visit to an oil field in the central state of Guarico with Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates, Chavez said he had made those comments to President Lula da Silva of Brazil in a telephone conversation.

"[Lula] said to me that he would receive the German chancellor," said Chavez. "And I said, please greet her from me. She comes here and throws stones, for reasons I do not know. Some European heads of state come in order to meet with us, and already before their arrival are throwing stones."

The tit for tat between the Venezuelan and German leaders started when Merkel told German news agency DPA in an interview ahead of this week's summit of the European Union, Latin American and Caribbean nations that the left-wing Chavez is not the voice of the region.

Chavez replied aggressively late Sunday in his weekly radio and television program, saying that Merkel belongs to the political right, "the same right that supported Hitler and fascism."

Merkel downplays fascist accusations

On Tuesday the Venezuelan government issued a statement stressing that Merkel is not the EU's only voice and demanded "respect" from Germany.

On Wednesday, Merkel did not respond directly to any remarks from Chavez, only saying she wanted to "tighten the strategic partnership with Latin America."

"President Lula can relax; I can look after myself," Merkel said when asked whether Brazil's head-of-state could help smooth over the dispute.

Lula da Silva was also optimistic about the upcoming meeting: "If I know Chavez and Merkel well, they will sit down, have a cup of coffee and peace will reign between Caracas and Bonn," he said, mistakenly referring to Germany's former capital.

The German chancellor traveled to Latin America on Tuesday and met with the Brazilian president on Wednesday in Brasilia to discuss broader bilateral economic ties.

Merkel, Chavez and some 60 leaders from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean are set to meet Friday and Saturday in Lima, for the summit that the two regions hold every two years.

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