AFP: The United States is monitoring Venezuela’s ties to Iran and “no option” is off the table as far as potential sanctions against President Hugo Chavez’s government in Caracas, a US official warned Friday.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States is monitoring Venezuela’s ties to Iran and “no option” is off the table as far as potential sanctions against President Hugo Chavez’s government in Caracas, a US official warned Friday.
“No option is ever off the table, and the department will continue to assess what additional actions might be warranted in the future,” Kevin Whitaker, the acting deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, told a congressional hearing.
“The department strongly urged Venezuela to pursue a path of cooperation and responsibility rather than further isolation and we will continue to do so,” Whitaker said, adding that Washington was monitoring Venezuela for “patterns of support for acts of international terrorism.”
And “we continue to monitor Venezuela as well as other countries for activities that would indicate patterns of support for acts of international terrorism,” he added.
The United States on May 24 slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil giant and cash cow PDVSA for its commercial relations with Iran, which it deems in violation of international sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program.
The State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, Daniel Benjamin, also attended Friday’s hearing, convened by House Republicans to discuss potential new sanctions on Caracas, and said Venezuela has shown a “demonstrable failure” to meet international requirements, particularly in counternarcotics operations.
“Instead of meeting its international obligations,” Venezuela “has chosen to have close relations with Iran and Syria,” Benjamin said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro last month said he would need to evaluate the real effect of the US measure before determining what might be an appropriate reprisal.
Caracas said the US measure was taken “as part of its unilateral sanctions policy against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The government voices its utmost rejection of this decision which was a hostile action, and outside international legal norms,” Maduro said.
Iranian officials have staunchly denied Western suspicions that Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program is masking a drive for atomic weapons.
Hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted Thursday that Iran is not seeking to build an atom bomb but defiantly added that should it decide to do so “no one can do a damn thing.”