Diplomat: U.S. to Overlook Chavez Barbs

The verbal attacks Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched against President Bush should not affect diplomatic relations between the countries, the U.S. ambassador said Monday.

William Brownfield said officials in Washington would try to overlook the string of insults uttered last week by Chavez, who called Bush "the devil" at the U.N. General Assembly and an "alcoholic" at a church in Harlem, New York.

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"My government's position is that we are going to ignore, we can ignore and we should ignore the words. It's the actions that count," Brownfield told the local Globovision television network.

"This bilateral relation is so important for the two countries that we try to ignore the polemical words, the rhetoric."

Officials in Caracas and Washington have exchanged harsh words and accusations in recent months amid increasingly tense diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the United States.

Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has repeatedly accused U.S. officials of conspiring to topple his government while the Bush administration has called the Venezuelan leader a destabilizing force in Latin America and questioned his devotion to democracy.

Relations were further strained Saturday, when Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said he was temporarily detained by officials at a New York airport and accused them of trying to frisk and handcuff him.

U.S. officials have called the detention regrettable and said they apologized to Maduro. Maduro called that insufficient and said Venezuela would seek a legal challenge through the U.N. to what he called a "flagrant violation of international law" and his diplomatic immunity.

"We lament this incident. It's our fault," Brownfield said.

Brownfield said Maduro used cash to purchase a one-way ticket to Miami shortly before the flight was scheduled to depart from New York, which probably prompted his detention.

"That's what produced the reaction," he said.

Despite political tensions with Washington, Venezuela — the world's fifth largest oil exporter — remains a major supplier of oil to the United States.