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Jamaican clergymen condemn call by US televangelist to assassinate Chavez

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August 24 Kingston: Jamaican clergymen have harshly condemned the call by conservative United States evangelist Pat Robertson for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.According to the American preacher, the leftist leader wanted to turn his country into "the launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism." But yesterday, the Rev. Howard Gregory, Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay, said: "What has come from Robertson is clearly of the devil - this call to eliminate a duly-elected leader is nothing short of demonic."

"It is most unfortunate at this time to be coming from a major spokesperson for the religious and political right of the U.S. Government when it is pursuing a programme against persons who are supposed to be terrorists," noted Rev. Gregory.

In his reaction, Garnet Roper, pastor of the Portmore Missionary Church, accused the American religious right of "wearing a religious disguise and condemning extremism, but they are no better than a suicide bomber."

Rev. Roper noted that Robertson was calling for the assassination of someone with whom he disagrees on political terms. "The hopes of people like us are bound up with the fate of Chavez," added Rev. Roper.

In the meantime, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack condemned Robertson's comments as "inappropriate" and said they were from a private citizen and did not represent the U.S. government position.

In Caracas, Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said: "This is a huge hypocrisy to maintain an anti-terrorist line and at the same time have such terrorist statements as these made by Christian preacher Pat Robertson coming from the same country."

"The ball is in the U.S. court now," Rangel told reporters.

The leftist Chavez has often accused the United States of plotting his overthrow or assassination. Alongside his ally Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana on Sunday, Chavez scoffed at the idea that he and Castro were destabilising troublemakers in Latin America - a charge repeated recently by U.S. defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld during a visit to Latin America.

Yesterday the Government of Grenada reacted sharply to Robertson's assassination call.

"The Government and people of Grenada know of the pain and turmoil that assassination and execution causes. Our country has suffered in the past by the actions of persons who believed that political differences gave them the right to take lives," a government statement said.

Maurice Bishop, the leftist-leaning Prime Minister of Grenada was assassinated by element within his government in 1983.

"We believe that democracy should promote peace, unity and goodwill even where differences occur and not a level of extremism which causes disruption to society," said the Grenadian government.

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