Jackson lends support to Chavez

The Rev. Jesse Jackson offered support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday, saying a recent call for his assassination was a criminal act and the United States and Venezuela should work out their differences through diplomacy.

The U.S. civil rights leader condemned last week's suggestion by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson that American agents should kill leftist Chavez, calling the conservative commentator's statements "immoral" and "illegal."

Jackson urged U.S. authorities to take action, and said the U.S. government must choose "diplomacy over any threats of sabotage or isolation or assassination."

Chavez, a self-styled "revolutionary," has repeatedly accused U.S. President George W. Bush's government of planning to overthrow him. He warned on Friday that some American leaders have considered killing him.

U.S. officials have repeatedly denied such claims.

Robertson's comments last week have increased already tense relations between Caracas and Washington. He called for Chavez's assassination on his TV show "The 700 Club," saying the United States should "take him out" because the Venezuelan leader poses a danger to the region.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a supporter of Bush's re-election bid, later issued an apology.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission "must prohibit such threats on the airwaves," said Jackson, who arrived Saturday for a visit along with members of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Representatives of the U.S. government have expressed concern that Chavez and his close ally, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, are fomenting instability in Latin America. Chavez and Castro deny it, instead blaming the United States for consistently meddling in the affairs of Latin nations.

Jackson later met and shook hands with Chavez during the Venezuelan leader's weekly radio and television program, "Hello President."

"Reverend Jackson, you can be sure that we will continue fighting for the ideas of Martin Luther King, for Christ the Redeemer's idea of loving one another and building a society of equals through our peaceful and democratic revolution," said Chavez.

He told Jackson he wanted to discuss the possibility of sending oil at preferential terms to poor communities in the United States.

Chavez accuses his political foes, including business and labor groups, of trying to force him from office by any means possible.

Since taking office in 1999, Chavez has survived a 2002 coup, a 2003 strike and a recall referendum last year. He is up for re-election next year, and recent polls suggest he has a 70-percent approval rating, AP reported.