Venezuela and US to restore diplomats

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Venezuela and the United States have agreed to restore their ambassadors more than nine months after President Hugo Chavez expelled the US envoy from Caracas.

Mr Chavez signalled that he still had major differences with Washington, accusing the US of having a hand in recent protests in Iran and saying that he hoped President Barack Obama will lead the US on a new path.

'I hope that Obama takes charge of dismantling the empire,' he said.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said that the governments have agreed to overturn the 'persona non grata' status given to each other's ambassadors in September, when Mr Chavez expelled US ambassador Patrick Duddy and recalled his envoy to Washington.

Mr Chavez said at the time that he had kicked out the ambassador to show solidarity with Bolivia after Bolivian President Evo Morales had ordered out the top US diplomat in his country, accusing him of 'seeking the division of Bolivia.'

Mr Maduro said that he had spoken with top US diplomat for the Americas Thomas Shannon and that they had 'effectively reached an agreement on the proposal.'

'The two ambassadors will re-establish their positions immediately,' Mr Maduro said.

However, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that the time frame for restoring the ambassadors remained unclear.

President Hugo Chavez has ushered three new countries into a bloc of leftist-led south American allies and said that their voices will be heard at the UN world financial summit.

The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas grew to nine countries on Wednesday with the addition of new members Ecuador, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda.

Other members are Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Dominica, Honduras and Nicaragua.