President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday denied that he's the father of a man claiming to be his illegitimate son.

It was the first time Chavez responded publicly to the claims of 31-year-old Salomon Fernandez, who says his mother became pregnant after an encounter with Chavez in the city of Maracay.

The president said he has investigated the matter, including obtaining a birth certificate, but is sure he never knew Fernandez's mother. He accused Fernandez of seeking publicity and said he has nothing to hide.

"She says we had relations," Chavez said in a televised speech. "But when Salomon was born I hadn't arrived to work in Maracay."

Fernandez and the president share a similar build and facial features. In a photo on his Web site, Fernandez — who until recently had planned to run for governor of Carabobo state — wears a bright red button-up shirt similar to those favored by Chavez.

Chavez himself joked about the resemblance, saying his daughter Maria told him after seeing a TV interview with Fernandez: "Papa, he looks a little like you."

But Chavez promised that he's no deadbeat dad.

"If this boy were my son, I would have him here with me," said the twice-divorced father of four. "I love my children."

Fernandez, who says he hopes to meet the president, also claims he was blocked from running for governor of Carabobo as the candidate of Chavez's party last November, for reasons that are unclear.