Chavez says Libya is "madness let loose"

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez makes the victory sign after a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011. Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba in June that removed a cancerous tumor from his pelvic region, and shaved his head after starting to lose his hair due to chemotherapy.
AP Photo/Fernando Llano

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Wednesday that Libya's crisis is just beginning with the fall of Muammar Qaddafi's government.

Chavez has been a staunch defender of Qaddafi throughout the conflict, and he condemned NATO airstrikes and killings of civilians.

"The drama of Libya isn't ending with the fall of Qaddafi's government. It's beginning," Chavez said. "The tragedy in Libya is just beginning."

Libyans hunting Muammar Qaddafi offered a $2 million bounty on Qaddafi's head and amnesty for anyone who kills or captures him as rebels battled Wednesday to clear the last pockets of resistance from the capital, Tripoli.

Asked about such efforts to hunt for Qaddafi, Chavez said they reflect a "madness let loose."

"What the Yankee empire and the European powers ... want is Libya's oil," Chavez said.

Chavez said his country's embassy in Libya was looted, but the Venezuelan ambassador to Tripoli later corrected that account saying his official residence was looted by "armed groups" who stole belongings and vehicles.

"They didn't leave anything in the house and fired some shots into the air," Venezuelan Ambassador Afif Tajeldine told the Caracas-based TV channel Telesur. He called it a violation of international law by armed groups supported by NATO, and therefore by NATO itself.

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Chavez said Tuesday that Venezuela would continue to recognize Qaddafi as Libya's leader and would refuse to recognize a rebel-led interim government.

On Wednesday, he denounced the U.S. role in the conflict, saying it represents "the madness of an empire."

"They've destroyed a country and they continue destroying it," Chavez said. "How many Libyan children have died?"

He made the remarks in response to questions from reporters after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"Now they're aiming against Syria," said Chavez, referring to another ally of Venezuela.