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By Pascal Fletcher
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused the United States on Wednesday of harboring "terrorists" plotting to kill him and told the U.S. and Spanish governments to stop meddling in his country's affairs.
The left-wing populist president has clashed with Washington over many issues, including the U.S. occupation of Iraq (news - web sites), but this was his most virulent attack so far against the country that is the leading buyer of Venezuela's oil.
In a rambling, raging speech to women supporters in Caracas, the former paratrooper also dismissed United Nations (news - web sites) meetings as a "dialogue of the deaf" and said it was not worth speaking at the international body.
He railed against opponents at home and critics within the Roman Catholic Church and accused the U.S. television network CNN of lying in its reports about Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter.
Chavez, who faces a possible referendum on his rule sought by domestic foes, said he canceled a planned visit to the United Nations and the United States this week because his government had received information about a plot to kill him while he was there.
"I have no conclusive proof to accuse anyone," he said.
But he immediately added that "coup-mongering, terrorist Venezuelans" who had taken part in a failed coup against him last year were plotting and training in the United States.
He said he had informed U.S. authorities.
"If they (the U.S. authorities) are really fighting terrorism as they say, they should act against these terrorists who are threatening Venezuela," Chavez said.
As the possibility of a referendum against him grows, the Venezuelan leader has lashed out in recent weeks against the United States, accusing the CIA (news - web sites) of taking part in the April, 2002 coup that briefly toppled him. Washington denies this.
Critics say the Venezuelan leader, a friend and ally of Cuba's President Fidel Castro (news - web sites), is adopting an aggressively nationalistic, anti-U.S. stance to try to deflect the pressure for a vote on his rule.
"NOT A COLONY"
Chavez, elected in 1998, has repeatedly accused Bush administration officials of poking their noses in Venezuelan affairs. "What happens in Venezuela has nothing to do with Mr. Bush's government," he said.
He repeated strong criticism of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, saying Washington had no right to "bomb cities, invade countries and overthrow governments."
Chavez also took aim at Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. He was apparently responding to a Colombian magazine article published this week in which Aznar urged Chavez not to follow the example of communist Cuba.
"Does he think we're still a colony? ... The Spanish empire was thrown out of here almost 200 years ago, Aznar," Chavez shouted.
Even the United Nations, which the Venezuelan leader has addressed several times, did not escape a tongue-lashing.
"It's not worth speaking at the U.N., speech after speech, and you see people falling asleep. ... It's a dialogue of the deaf," said Chavez. (Additional reporting by Tomas Sarmiento and Magdalena Morales)