CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez accused his political opponents on Sunday of trying to divide the military as part of a broader plan aimed at spurring a Libya-like uprising in Venezuela following next year's presidential election.
Chavez said such a conflict would give Washington a justification to lead a military invasion of Venezuela.
"They want to divide the armed forces," said Chavez, referring to Venezuela's opposition. "The Yankee empire, the CIA and the State Department is behind them."
"The empire has a plan that has worked in Libya," he said during his weekly television and radio program. Chavez commonly refers to the United States as "the empire."
Venezuela's opposition leaders deny conspiring to topple Chavez by provoking a military coup attempt, saying they plan to unseat the former paratroop commander-turned-president at the ballot box in December 2012.
Opposition lawmaker Alfredo Ramos called the president's accusations unfounded, saying he's heard similar charges in the past.
"He sounds like a broken record," Ramos said in a telephone interview. "Chavez feels the possibility of losing in 2012."
U.S. officials have also rejected Chavez's repeated accusations of coup plotting.
Chavez, a friend and ally of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, lambasted U.S. and European leaders for forging business ties with Libya in recent years only to turn their backs on Libya's leader after the popular uprising aimed at forcing his ouster began over three weeks ago.
"Now he's the biggest monster in the world," he said.
"I'm not like that," Chavez added, noting that he has refused to condemn Gadhafi's actions like other leaders across the globe.
Chavez has accused Washington and its allies of maneuvering to seize control of Libya's oil.
The Arab League asked the U.N. Security Council on Saturday to impose a no-fly zone. But the U.S. and many of its allies have expressed deep reservations about a tactic that would require them to destroy Gadhafi's air defenses and possibly shoot down his planes.
Libya's rebel forces have asked for a no-fly zone, but foreign nations seem reluctant to impose such a measure.
Chavez warned on Sunday that international oil prices would quickly top $200 if NATO and U.S. forces invade the North African country.
NATO has so far ruled out direct military intervention in Libya.
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