CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that he will keep supporting Syria's leader and called for the U.S. to rethink its stance toward the war-shattered nation.
Chavez likened the violence in Syria to the fighting in Libya that preceded last year's ouster and killing of Moammar Gadhafi, who was also a Chavez ally.
The Venezuelan leader said he thinks the conflict in Syria has been provoked by Syrian leader Bashar Assad's enemies abroad to try to topple him.
"The government of the United States is one of those most responsible for this disaster," Chavez said at a news conference, calling for President Barack Obama to take a different tack.
"I hope Mr. Obama, if he's re-elected, thinks things over, reflects — and the European governments," Chavez said. He criticized European governments for meeting with Syrian dissidents.
Chavez has been a vocal defender of Assad, and Venezuelan officials have said the state oil company has sent three shipments of diesel fuel to aid Syria.
"How can we not support the government of Bashar al-Assad if it's the legitimate government of Syria?" Chavez said. He called the rebels who are fighting Assad's government "terrorists."
Activists have estimated the death toll has surpassed 32,000 during nearly 19 months of violence in Syria.
Chavez said he would like to help ease the crisis in Syria but added: "What can a country like Venezuela do?"