Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that an attempt was made to assassinate him recently and that those responsible fled to Colombia.

Chavez appeared to link the plot to his main opposition challenger in upcoming presidential elections, Gov. Manuel Rosales of Zulia state.

"No more than a few months ago over in Zulia ... they didn't shoot me by a hair's breadth," Chavez said in a televised speech.

Chavez said that a sniper waited with a long-range gun and a motorcycle to escape on, and had planned to shoot him as he exited from a helicopter and walked across a 650-foot open stretch.

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"The plan didn't work out for them — God is always present over there. But those responsible left for Colombia, and by the way, they were from the Zulia police."

He did not elaborate further on the alleged plot.

Chavez visited the western oil-producing region of Zulia, where Rosales enjoys strong support, in June to inaugurate a refurbished fertilizer plant.

Chavez has accused the U.S. government of secretly backing his opponents in the Dec. 3 elections and recently claimed that George W. Bush may be seeking to kill him after he called the U.S. president "the devil" at the U.N. General Assembly.

"For sure, one walks around risking one's life ... We're being threatened with death by the (U.S.) empire," he said, likening his trip to New York earlier this month to "walking into Lucifer's own cave."

U.S.-Venezuela ties sharply deteriorated after the Bush administration swiftly recognized leaders who ousted Chavez in a 2002 coup before the Venezuelan returned to power amid a popular uprising.

Chavez has claimed before that the U.S. government is out to kill him and invade his country. U.S. officials deny that but criticize Chavez as a destabilizing force in Latin America.