Venezuela has dismissed as "absurd" charges by US evangelist preacher Pat Robertson that President Hugo Chavez had sent money to Osama bin Ladin after the 9/11 attacks and was seeking nuclear material from Iran.
The remarks by Robertson on Sunday, a one-time Republican presidential candidate and a leader of Christian conservatives, came just weeks after he triggered a media storm by calling on Washington to assassinate left-winger Chavez.
"This man is insane at the very least. This is absurd," Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel said.
"Some policies up north force one to look at them not through the usual political analysis, but with a team of psychiatrists, psychologists and even shamans," he said.
Robertson's assassination comments in August underscored the deep political rift that has grown between oil producer Venezuela and the United States since Chavez was elected in 1998 with a populist promise to fight poverty.
War of words
Washington charges that Chavez, a former army officer, has become increasingly authoritarian and a nuisance in the region by allying with Cuban President Fidel Castro to undermine democracy in neighbouring countries.
Chavez, who has spent millions of dollars in oil revenues on social programmes for the poor, dismisses those charges. He blames the United States for a 2002 coup he survived and says Washington wants to assassinate or topple him.
Despite strained political ties and heated tit-for-tat rhetoric, Venezuela still sells most of its crude to the United States and the US market gets about 15% of its oil imports from its South American partner.
"Some policies up north [United States] force one to look at them not through the usual political analysis, but with a team of psychiatrists, psychologists and even shamans"
President of Venezuela
Speaking to CNN Late Edition, Robertson said Chavez wanted to set up a Marxist dictatorship in Venezuela.
"He's trying to spread Marxism throughout South America. He is negotiating with the Iranians to get nuclear material. And he also sent $1.2 million in cash to Osama bin Ladin right after 9/11," Robertson said.
He offered no evidence to substantiate the charges.
Robertson has apologised for his previous assassination remarks, saying he was just frustrated by Chavez's constant attacks on the administration of US President George Bush.
Chavez often rails against US foreign policies and presents his self-described socialist revolution as an alternative to capitalist policies.
He has sought closer political and energy ties with Iran, Russia and China. Chavez last May announced his intentions to use nuclear power and said his government could start talks with Iran as well as Argentina and Brazil.