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Venezuela to summon U.S. diplomat over plane

/ Source: The Associated Press

Venezuela will summon the U.S. ambassador to explain an alleged violation of its airspace by a U.S. military plane, the country's foreign minister said Monday.

The U.S. Navy plane was detected in Venezuelan airspace near the Caribbean island of La Orchila on Saturday, and the plane was contacted by radio, Defense Minister Gen. Gustavo Rangel Briceno said.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy will be called in to discuss the matter. "We will ask for an explanation," Maduro.

Asked about the accusation, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Robin Holzhauer said: "We're looking into any possible accidental incursion of Venezuelan airspace."

In Washington, a U.S. defense official said Monday that a Navy plane might have accidentally crossed into Venezuela’s airspace.

The source said the S-3 Viking aircraft, based in Curacao, was on a training mission in international airspace near Los Roques Island, Venezuela, and experienced “intermittent navigational problems.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The aircraft is used for counter-narcotics missions. Navy crew on the S-3 reported they had a brief radio conversation with air traffic control personnel in Maiquetia, and concluded they had mistakenly flown into Venezuelan airspace, the official said.

Colombia concerns raised
Venezuelan officials raised the incident at a news conference where they also expressed concern about an alleged incursion of Colombian troops.

Colombia's defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, on Sunday denied Venezuela's claim that troops had crossed into the neighboring country.

Venezuela's foreign ministry sent Colombia's U.S.-allied government a diplomatic note Saturday demanding an explanation for what it called an "illegal incursion" of 60 Colombian soldiers into Venezuela's western state of Apure. It said the troops were found about 875 yards from the border on Friday.

Maduro called the alleged Colombian troop incursion "a provocation" that the Venezuelan government believes is part of a broader attempt to stir up "an armed conflict."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has long had tense relations with Washington, has also increasingly clashed with Colombia's government.

Recently released documents that Colombia says it found at a bombed rebel camp suggest Venezuelan help in supplying funding and arms to leftist Colombian rebels. The international police agency Interpol last week said it found no evidence of Colombian tampering with the documents, but Chavez insists he has provided no support to the rebels.