updated 2/1/2007 12:34:32 PM ET 2007-02-01T17:34:32

President Hugo Chavez dismissed Washington's concerns that Venezuela's democracy is under threat, saying that a "dictatorship" led by U.S. President George W. Bush poses a true threat to democracy around the world.

Condemning the war in Iraq, the Venezuelan leader said that Bush and John Negroponte, a former director of national intelligence who is designated for the No. 2 position in the U.S. State Department, should be tried for "war crimes" committed by the U.S. military across the globe.

"The two of them are criminals. They should be tried and thrown in prison for the rest of their days," Chavez told a news conference.

"If he had any dignity, the president of the United States would quit. The U.S. president doesn't have the political or moral capacity to govern," he added.

Chavez was responding to comments made on Wednesday by Bush, who said he was concerned about Venezuela's democracy.

"I am concerned about the undermining of democratic institutions. And we're working to help prevent that from happening," Bush said in an interview with Fox News.

Relations between Caracas and Washington have been tense recently, with U.S. officials accusing Chavez — a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro — of becoming increasingly authoritarian and Chavez accusing U.S. officials of scheming against his left-leaning government.

Last week, Chavez threatened to expel U.S. ambassador William Brownfield for "meddling" in Venezuela's domestic affairs. Brownfield has called for improved relations between the two countries, but said he's ready to leave if the Chavez administration decides to expel him.

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