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Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said said a US military strike on Iran would provoke an Iranian attack on Israel, triggering a wider conflict in the region. The Venezuelan leader, speaking Sunday in central London during a two-day visit, also cautioned that the middle class would have to pay more for gasoline.
"If the United States attacks Iran, among other things, my English friends and the middle-class ... should park their vehicles because oil could reach US$100 a barrel or more," Chavez told a packed community center in a speech that lasted for more than three hours.
He said Iran would be forced to cut oil production in the event of a U.S. attack, which he said would be "a threat against us all."
Chavez, who called US President George W. Bush a "terrorist," also criticized the war in Iraq, calling it the "Vietnam of the 21st century."
"If they attack Iran I think it will be far worse than it was in Iraq," Chavez told an audience of some 500 British lawmakers and left-leaning activists. "The United States doesn't know what it's doing in Iraq: There's no government and there's civil war."
Chavez is on a visit to London aimed at energizing Europe's social movements.
He was greeted in an auditorium at the community center by mostly young activists waving Venezuelan flags, beating drums and tambourines and dancing in the aisles.
Chavez showed up about an hour late, but Latin music pumping from speakers warmed up the crowd _ some wearing red berets,with many singing along to a salsa tune about Chavez called "Uh, Ah, Chavez no se va!" or "Ooh, ah, Chavez isn't going anywhere!"
The gathering, organized by maverick London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a vocal Chavez supporter, was the first event during a packed schedule. He will meet with trade union officials on Monday, hold a news conference at city hall and have lunch with Livingstone, officials said.
Chavez will not meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair or any senior British government officials during his visit, which one political analyst pointed to as a sign of the tensions between the two governments.
Tensions between the two governments have been escalating since February, when Blair told legislators in the House of Commons that Venezuela "should abide by the rules of the international community" and that he would like to see Venezuela's close ally Cuba become a "functioning democracy."
Chavez has characterized Blair as a "pawn of imperialism" over his close alliance with Bush, whom Chavez has compared to Adolf Hitler.
On Saturday, Chavez announced at a gathering of non-governmental groups and social movements in Vienna, Austria, that he wants to provide cheap heating oil for low-income Europeans in a deal similar to one he worked out this past winter to help needy Americans.
He offered a similar arrangement to London's mayor, who accepted.
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