Venezuela's Chavez meets British trade union officials

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was to meet with British trade union officials in central London on Monday, a day after he said a U.S. attack on Iran over its nuclear program could produce skyrocketing oil prices.

Chavez was to first meet with the Trades Union Congress, which has about 70 affiliated unions and represents nearly 7 million workers, in an event closed to the media, the union said. He later holds a news conference alongside Mayor Ken Livingstone, who hosted a rally for him with left-leaning activists Sunday night.

Following the news conference, he was having lunch with Livingstone and other guests including Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize winning playwright, and actress and activist Bianca Jagger.

Later, he was to give a lecture at an institute promoting cultural and commercial ties between Britain and Latin America.

During a speech Sunday evening in a London community center's auditorium, Chavez said that a U.S. attack on Iran over its nuclear program would trigger an enormous military escalation in the Middle East and that oil prices would soar to at least US$100 a barrel.

Chavez said a U.S. military strike on Iran would provoke an Iranian attack on U.S. ally Israel, triggering a wider conflict in the region. The Venezuelan leader also cautioned that the middle class would have to pay more for gasoline.

"If the United States attacks Iran, among other things, my English friends and the middle-class ... should park their vehicles because oil could reach US$100 a barrel or more," Chavez told the packed community center in a speech that lasted more than three hours.

He said Iran would be forced to cut oil production in the event of a U.S. attack, which he said would be "a threat against us all," reports the AP.

I.L.