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Chavez backs China over Nobel for jailed dissident

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expressed solidarity with China's government Sunday over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a jailed Chinese dissident.

He suggested the prize should not have gone to Liu Xiaobo, who has drawn praise from Western governments as an advocate of gradual political change without any violent confrontation with Chinese leaders.

"This (Liu) is like Obama, the other peace prize," Chavez said.

The Venezuelan leader criticized last year's award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama, saying the U.S. president didn't deserve the honor because his administration continues to engage in wars.

Speaking in his weekly radio and television program, Chavez scoffed at his Venezuelan political opponents who praised the giving of the peace prize to Liu.

Chavez said the opposition's support for the prize showed that "they are lackeys" of the West. "They are worse than the Yankees."

"Our greetings and solidarity go to the government of the People's Republic of China," Chavez said, adding: "Viva China! And its sovereignty, its independence and its greatness."

The Chinese government reacted angrily to the announcement of the peace prize for Liu. It said the Norwegian Nobel Committee violated its own principles by honoring a "criminal."

Chavez's government has intensified its diplomatic and trade relations with China as part of Chavez's effort to diversify sales of the country's oil. The United States, which Chavez accuses of trying to dominate the region, remains the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela is one of the largest world oil exporters and China one of the largest consumers. The Venezuelan government plans to increase its oil sales to China to 1 million barrels a day by 2012 and build three refineries in China.