U.S. won't rule out retaliation for Venezuela's expulsion of attache

Washington, Mar 6 (EFE).- The United States is not ruling out the possibility of retaliating with a reciprocal action to Venezuela's expulsion of the air attache at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, a high-ranking Obama administration official said Wednesday.

"We're not ruling anything out at this point," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in a conference call with reporters.

The Venezuelan government announced Tuesday that the U.S. air attache and his aide had been given 24 hours to leave the country.

The officers were expelled for trying to recruit members of the Venezuelan armed forces for "destabilizing projects," Vice President Nicolas Maduro said just hours before the country's president, Hugo Chavez, died after a long battle with cancer.

The Obama administration official gave no further details regarding the type of action Washington might be considering, but he said that the accusations made on Tuesday by Maduro were "outrageous" adding that he regretted the fact that they had come at a time when the United States is trying to build a positive relationship with Venezuela.

Besides the expulsions, Maduro suggested that foul play had been involved in Chavez's illness and pointed the finger at Venezuela's "historic enemies," which many interpreted as an allusion to Washington.

There have been no high-level contacts between the U.S. State Department and Venezuela since late November 2011, when the assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, spoke by telephone with Maduro, the senior official said Wednesday.

The contacts are aimed at finding a way to normalize diplomatic relations, which have stagnated due to the two countries' mutual withdrawal of their ambassadors from each other's capitals in 2010.

"I do expect that there will be a delegation," the official said, responding to a question about U.S. representation at Chavez's funeral, set for Friday.