CARACAS - Six years after he drew jeers and cheers for calling then-US President George W. Bush the devil, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez offered an explanation: that podium in the United Nations General Assembly really did smell like sulfur.

As he opened a jar of crude oil used as a prop during an address on Tuesday, the firebrand socialist president, who is running for re-election, mentioned its sulfurous stench, prompting chuckles and side glances among the government officials gathered for the televised event.

They were recalling Chavez's 2006 UN speech, in which he made headlines around the world for calling Bush "the devil himself," and saying the podium still smelled of sulfur after Bush had stood there the day before.

"You think I planned to say that? No, no, no. It happened in the moment," Chavez said during Tuesday's televised meeting.

"I got there and I smelled sulfur," Chavez said, pausing for a brief laugh. "I don't know why, but I smelled sulfur."

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