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Chavez calls Bush 'asshole' as foes fight troops

By Patrick Markey

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called U.S. President George W. Bush an "asshole" on Sunday for meddling, and vowed never to quit office like his Haitian counterpart as troops battled with opposition protesters demanding a recall referendum against him.

Chavez, who often says the U.S. is backing opposition efforts to topple his leftist government, accused Bush of heeding advice from "imperialist" aides to support a brief 2002 coup against him.

"He was an asshole to believe them," Chavez roared at a huge rally of supporters in Caracas.

The Venezuelan leader's comments came as fresh violence broke out on the streets of the capital, where National Guard troops clashed with opposition protesters pressing for a vote to end his five-year rule.

Military helicopters roared in low runs overhead as soldiers fired tear gas and plastic bullets to repel several hundred opposition demonstrators who threw stones and set up burning barricades in eastern Caracas late into the night.

Troops and opposition activists also skirmished in other cities.

"We call on the country to continue with peaceful resistence," opposition leader Enrique Mendoza said. "This fight will last as long as necessary."

A soldier and a cameraman were shot and injured during the clashes and an opposition protester was wounded in the head by gunmen firing from motorbikes, witnesses and officials said.

Electoral authorities, citing the need to preserve peace in the country, said they were postponing until Monday the preliminary results of their verification of the opposition's petition for a recall vote.

One demonstrator carried a banner reading: "Bye bye Aristide, Chavez you're next," referring to Haiti's leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who fled into exile on Sunday in the face of an armed rebellion.

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