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U.S. officials expected to attend Chavez funeral

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

* Delegation to be announced by White House

* No plans to reciprocate after U.S. diplomats expelled

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Reuters) - The United States is expected to send a delegation to Hugo Chavez's funeral later this week in a move that could send a conciliatory message to Venezuela now that its stridently anti-American leader has died.

Senior U.S. officials also said on Wednesday that Washington had no immediate plans to respond in kind to Venezuela's expulsion of two U.S. military attaches, which was announced on Tuesday by Vice President Nicolas Maduro just hours before he told the world of Chavez's death.

Maduro, Chavez's chosen successor, said on Tuesday that one of the expelled U.S. diplomats tried to stir up a military plot against Chavez. He also said Chavez's cancer was an attack by Venezuela's enemies - an accusation the United States dismissed as absurd.

A senior State Department official said the United States was reviewing its response to Venezuela's expulsion of the two military officials and said it had the right to reciprocate in kind but for now it would not be doing so.

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has been without an ambassador since 2010, when Chavez rejected the U.S. appointee. That led Washington to revoke the credentials of Venezuela's ambassador.

U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement shortly after Chavez's death was announced, expressing an interest in a "constructive relationship" in the post-Chavez era. But analysts said Washington would be challenged to figure out a way to engage with Venezuelan leaders and the opposition without appearing to meddle in the South American oil-producing nation.

The senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States would like a "more functional" relationship with the Venezuelan government going forward.

The official said it was too early to tell how the situation would evolve but said the United States was expected to send a delegation to Chavez's funeral, which will be held on Friday. Details of who will be included in the delegation will be announced by the White House.

There have been no signs of security threats in Venezuela since Chavez's death, the official said.

"We have no indication right now that there is any threat to our personnel or Americans in Venezuela," the official said. "After you have the kind of broadside that Vice President Maduro launched against the United States yesterday we obviously have security concerns and will remain very vigilant." (Reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by Warren Strobel and Eric Beech)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130306/us-officials-expected-attend-chavez-funeral