Up to Chavez to decide inauguration date: top lawmaker

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose inauguration was delayed due to cancer treatment, will decide himself when he is ready to be sworn in to office, the National Assembly's leader said Monday.

Chavez returned to Caracas last week after two months of cancer treatment in Cuba, an absence that forced him to miss his January 10 inauguration. He has been out of sight in a military hospital since his return on February 18.

"It is up to the 'Comandante' to say when he deems that he can call the Supreme Court to do this process," National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello told reporters.

With Chavez in Cuba, the government replaced his January 10 inauguration before the legislature with a big rally and said that he could be sworn in at a later time by the Supreme Court.

The country's top court approved the decision, saying the swearing-in was not necessary because there was no interruption of mandate. The decision angered the opposition.

A court source told AFP that the justices were "ready" to swear in Chavez "at any moment."

Cabello, however, said: "We are not in a hurry because the president is in charge just as the (Supreme Court) ruling determined, and he is recuperating from an illness."

Chavez has difficulty speaking because he is breathing with the help of a tracheal tube. The government said last Thursday that he is still suffering from a respiratory infection.

But Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez held a five-hour meeting with aides on Friday, discussing economic policy and giving instructions in writing.