CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela's top diplomat on Thursday echoed Fidel Castro's accusation that Washington and its allies are fomenting unrest in Libya to justify an invasion to seize North African nation's oil reserves.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro claimed the United States and other powerful countries are trying to create a movement inside Libya aimed at toppling Moammar Gadhafi.
Maduro did not condemn or defend the violent crackdown on Libyans participating in the popular uprising against Gadhafi's long rule.
He called for a peaceful solution to the upheaval in Libya and questioned the veracity of media reports on the bloody uprising, which has crept closer to Gadhafi's stronghold in Tripoli.
"They are creating conditions to justify an invasion of Libya," Maduro said.
"Libya is going through difficult times, which should not be measured with information from imperial news agencies," Maduro added, referring to Western media.
Gadhafi has been a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Chavez's political opponents have strongly criticized those close relations.
In a Twitter message Thursday, Venezuela's leftist president said: "Viva Libya and its independence! Gadhafi is facing a civil war."
It was the first time that Chavez has publicly referred to the violence in Libya.
On Tuesday, Castro, Chavez's mentor, said the unrest in Libya might be a pretext by the U.S. to push for a NATO invasion.
Castro said in a column published by Cuban state media that it was too early to criticize Gadhafi. But he did urge protests against something that he claimed is planned: A U.S.-led invasion to take control of Libya's oil.
Venezuela and Libya are both member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Chavez, who has forged close ties with Gadhafi since taking office in 1999, has repeatedly accused Washington of conspiring to topple his own government. The self-proclaimed socialist says the United States wants to control Venezuela's immense petroleum reserves.
U.S. officials have scoffed at suggestions that Washington is plotting against Venezuela's government.
Earlier Thursday, Afif Tajeldine, Venezuela's ambassador to Libya, said dozens of Venezuelans who were working in the country had been evacuated by their employers. At least 76 Venezuelans were living in Libya, the ambassador said.
Tajeldine told the Caracas-based Telesur network all had been staying at the embassy in the capital of Tripoli and just 13 remained Thursday.
He described the capital as calm.