Chavez 'would expel US ambassador'

Tension flared between the US and Venezuela over Washington's nominee for ambassador on Saturday. President Hugo Chavez warned the diplomat would be detained and put on the next flight home if he sets foot in the country.

For months Mr Chavez warned that President Obama's nominee, Larry Palmer, would not be welcome due to critical remarks he made about Venezuela's government. During his Senate confirmation process, Mr Palmer suggested that morale is low in Venezuela's military, and also expressed concern about Colombian rebels finding refuge in Venezuela.

"He went ahead and said whatever he felt like saying, disrespecting Venezuela, a group of honourable generals, the government, the Venezuelan constitution," Mr Chavez said in a televised speech. "How is he going to be ambassador? He disqualified himself."

Mr Chavez chuckled as he addressed Nicolas Maduro, the Foreign Minister, saying Mr Palmer must be stopped if he attempts to fly into Caracas' airport in Maiquetia. "If he arrives at Maiquetia, grab him, Nicolas, grab him," Chavez said. "Give Mr Palmer a coffee from me, then 'bye-bye'. He cannot enter this country."

The US State Department insisted Mr Palmer is the best candidate. Arturo Valenzuela, the US Assistant Secretary of State, said if the Senate confirms Palmer as ambassador, he will soon be sent to Caracas. AP