Venezuela's vice president on Monday rejected as "crazy" recent accusations by American religious broadcaster Pat Robertson that President Hugo Chavez once sent money to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said the allegations appeared aimed at tainting Chavez's image and should be analyzed by "a team of psychologists ... because it is so irrational."
"He's crazy, at the very least," said Rangel, adding that U.S. officials should have immediately condemned Robertson's remarks.
Robertson said on CNN's "Late Edition" on Sunday that the Venezuelan leader sent "either $1 million or $1.2 million in cash" to bin Laden after the Sept. 11 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. Asked where he got his information, Robertson just cited "sources that came to me. That's what I was told."
Venezuela's ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, told state television that Robertson's accusation might stem from an earlier accusation, made by an ex-pilot of Chavez's presidential plane.
That accusations had led to a lawsuit in Florida, but a judge there dismissed the claim that Chavez routed $1 million to al-Qaida and the Taliban through India. Venezuela's officials said the funds were sent to India for humanitarian aid following an earthquake.
Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition of America, had previously caused an uproar by suggesting Chavez should be killed. He later apologized, and the U.S. State Department said his comments were inappropriate.
However, in his recent appearance on CNN, Robertson said: "This man (Chavez) is setting up a Marxist-type dictatorship in Venezuela. He's trying to spread Marxism throughout South America. He is negotiating with the Iranians to get nuclear material."
"One day we're going to be staring at nuclear weapons and ... it's going to be a Venezuelan nuke," Robertson said on CNN.
Rangel responded by saying "the atomic bomb is (President George W) Bush in the United States."
It is also troubling that "the reverend (Robertson) is the spiritual adviser of the guest in the White House," Rangel added, referring to Bush. Robertson is a supporter of Bush, but doesn't work with the president in an official capacity.
Earlier this month, however, Chavez announced that his government would starting researching peaceful uses of nuclear energy. He did not provide details.
Robertson also blasted Chavez for alleged ties with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and for writing a letter to Carlos the Jackal, the notorious terrorist imprisoned in France and accused of a string of Cold War era bombings.
"He's made common cause with these people who are considered terrorists," Robertson said.
Chavez, who is up for re-election next year, often praises Cuba's leader Fidel Castro but rejects accusations that he is seeking to install a dictatorship or Cuban-style regime in his country, AP reported.
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