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US hopes for better ties after Venezuela elections

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The United States is hoping to forge better ties with Venezuela once the political upheaval caused by president Hugo Chavez's death is over, but admitted Wednesday it may take some time.

"All of us know that electoral campaigns may not always be the best time to break new ground on policy," a senior State Department official, who asked not to be named, told reporters on a conference call.

"We will continue to desire that positive relationship... while recognizing that it may take a little while before the Venezuelan government that emerges from the elections is ready to have that conversation."

The official dismissed as "outrageous" charges made by Vice President Nicolas Maduro just hours before he announced Chavez's death in which he accused Washington of being behind a plot to destabilize the government.

Caracas has also given two Air Force officers 24 hours to leave the country accusing them of involvement in the conspiracy.

Washington was "disappointed" by the charges and is reviewing whether to take reciprocal measures against Caracas, the official said, adding "it's obviously always our right to take that action, we're not ruling anything out at this point."

But the official stressed the United States was keen to move forward, through conversations about areas of "mutual interest" such as counternarcotics, counterterrorism and economical and commercial issues including energy.

"That's the way you start this, you start by talking about the things that matter to both of us, and seeing if we can make progress on those issues, on those functional areas."

Both countries have been running their embassies in each other's capitals without an ambassador since a diplomatic spat in 2010.

Assistant Secretary for Latin America Roberta Jacobson in late 2012 reached out to Maduro -- who has been anointed Chavez's heir and is expected to run for the presidency in the upcoming elections -- "because we felt it was important to see if we could reconstruct this relationship," the official said.

The US had set out a "road-map" to improve ties, but would however continue to speak out about issues such as democracy, the official added.

Chavez's funeral has been set for Friday, and the Venezuelan leadership has invited foreign ministers to attend.

The White House is expected to announce who will represent the United States, the official said, adding "I do expect there will be a delegation."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130306/us-hopes-better-ties-after-venezuela-elections