Friday, February 25, 2011

FACTBOX-Venezuelan and Libyan leaders' friendship and gifts


CARACAS Feb 25 (Reuters) - Revolts in Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world are politically awkward for Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez due to his friendships in the region and opposition accusations that he too is a strongman.

His relationship with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been particularly warm, the pair showering each other with gifts and awards over the last few years.

Here are some details of their friendship:

* Chavez and Gaddafi have enjoyed a long-standing alliance based on shared military backgrounds, left-wing economic ideas, antagonistic relations with the United States, and membership for both their nations of the OPEC oil producer group.

* In 2004, Libya awarded its annual Gaddafi International Human Rights Prize to Chavez for resisting "imperialism" and being a champion of the poor. A citation with the award praised the Venezuelan leader's "brave heart, intelligent mind, eloquent oratory and firm hand."

* Chavez first visited Tripoli a year after taking office in 1999, and has been back five times since.

* In 2006, Libya named a new 11,000-seater soccer stadium after Chavez near the Mediterranean city of Benghazi. The Libyan soccer federation said Chavez was being honored for his "brave humanitarian positions, especially in support of the people of Gaza in the recent Israeli aggression."

* Making a rare visit to the Americas, Gaddafi attended a Chavez-hosted summit of Latin American and African leaders in 2009. Together, they called for a new world order countering Western economic dominance.

* After the meeting on Venezuela's Caribbean resort island of Margarita, Chavez presented Gaddafi with a replica of a sword of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

* Last year, Chavez said he planned to govern from a Bedouin-style tent given to him by Gaddafi, to make space for homeless Venezuelans he invited to live at his palace.

* At the height of recent protests in Egypt, Chavez said he had spoken to Gaddafi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for briefings on the situation.

* When the demonstrations and violence reached Tripoli, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he had seen information to suggest Gaddafi had fled and was on his way to Venezuela. Libya and Venezuela's governments denied it, and Gaddafi later appeared on TV to refute the rumors. (Reporting by Caracas newsroom, Writing by Daniel Wallis;Editing by Kieran Murray)

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