President Hugo Chavez is poking fun at Washington's misgivings over a possible transfer of nuclear materials between Venezuela and Iran.

During a televised Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Chavez welcomed Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz as he arrived late and asked, "How's the uranium for Iran? For the atomic bomb?"

Chavez's mocking drew snickers from Cabinet members. Sanz grinned.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said recently the United States is worried about the possibility of nuclear transfers between Iran and Venezuela.

Recent revelations that Iran has secretly been building a uranium-enrichment plant have provoked concerns among countries including the U.S., Russia, France, Britain, Germany and China.

Chavez insists Iran has a "sovereign right" to pursue peaceful nuclear ambitions, and he denies the Islamic republic is building nuclear weapons.

He vowed to press ahead with plans to develop nuclear energy in Venezuela, where uranium deposits have been detected.

Venezuela is not planning to send uranium to Iran, which has significant uranium deposits and currently has no need to import uranium.

"They are going to start saying that we are going to make an atomic bomb," Chavez said.