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Venezuelan president scraps UN trip over 'threats'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday he had scrapped his plan to take part in the UN General Assembly in New York to "protect my life" after purported threats on it.

Maduro, just back from a visit to China, said that on a layover in Vancouver he received intelligence on what he said were "two highly serious provocations," which prompted him to scrap his UN trip.

"When I got into Vancouver I evaluated the intelligence which we received from several sources. I decided then and there to continue back to Caracas and drop the New York trip to protect a key goal: safeguarding my physical integrity, protecting my life," Maduro told local media.

One of the alleged provocations "had been planned against my physical integrity" and another could have involved violence in New York, the leading face of Latin America's left charged.

Maduro also claimed the US "knew of these provocations" and that the US president was going to allow them "to take place under his own nose."

He said Foreign Minister Elias Juau was attending the summit in his place.

Venezuela is the region's closest ally of Communist Cuba, which regularly has charged US conservatives were plotting against their leaders, leftist policies and governments.

Maduro earlier this month claimed the White House is plotting the "collapse" of his government next month by sabotaging food, electricity and fuel supplies.

Maduro's predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, also made regular claims about several alleged US plots to kill him.

The countries have not had ambassadors in each others' capitals since 2010, though the US remains Venezuela's largest buyer of crude oil.

Separately, Venezuela said it would be filing suit against Airbus after Caracas sent its presidential jet for routine maintenance in France and, when it was returned, found what Maduro claims was serious damage to a wing.

"We are preparing legal action against the European manufacturer for that problem" found after the jet had been in the shop a longer-than-usual five months, Maduro said in a speech.

Maduro, who took Venezuela's helm April 19, on many of his presidential trips has flown in a jet with Cubana de Aviacion markings -- which he calls "the ALBA jet" referring to the Cuban-founded, Caracas-funded leftist Latin diplomatic alliance called ALBA.

The president said Wednesday that after the incident with the Airbus jet, he no longer will use it.

"I have called in local experts to do a report. They are working on it and asking for Airbus to explain why the presidential jet has a defect if it was just in the shop for five months," Maduro said.

"This is very serious," he charged.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has claimed Venezuela is renting the Cubana jet Maduro uses from Havana for $250,000 a day.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130926/venezuelan-president-scraps-un-trip-over-threats