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|Wednesday, August 09, 2000, updated at 09:44(GMT+8)|
Venezuela's Chavez to Visit Iraq Despite U.S. CriticismVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez will start his visit to Iraq this week, becoming the first elected head of state to visit the country since 1990.
The trip has drawn sharp criticism from the United States, Venezuela's main trade partner and the biggest recipient of the country's oil exports.
The U.S. State Department says it is deeply concerned that the leftist former paratrooper will meet Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in Baghdad on Thursday, without the approval of the U.N. Sanctions Committee.
Reacting to the U.S. criticism, Venezuela's foreign ministry said Chavez has no intention of changing his plans.
Chavez is on tour of all 10 fellow Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and is using the trip to invite OPEC leaders to a summit in the Venezuelan capital Caracas in late September.
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