Newly re-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he is willing to talk to US President George W Bush — whom he routinely calls a "devil" — from a position of equality and respect.
Chavez on Tuesday said his government would demand respect for Latin American countries and their decisions on development, a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and the extradition of Cuban anti-Castro activist Luis Posada Carriles, convicted by Venezuelan courts of terrorist attacks.
Chavez, who regularly attacks US "imperialism", easily won re-election on Sunday. The US had commended Venezuela for conducting peaceful elections and said it wanted to work with the Chavez government.
Chavez said he was willing to engage in dialogue with Washington, though he admitted that he doubts the sincerity of Washington's offer.
In a press conference in Caracas, Chavez reacted to recent comments by Thomas Shannon, US assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, who said he hoped the US will have a good relationship with Caracas and praised the Venezuelan election.
Chavez said such comments are a good sign, but stressed that any dialogue must include a series of regional and global issues.
"For example, over 100 people died on Tuesday in Iraq, and the US president sleeps happily," Chavez said.
"If the US government wants dialogue, Venezuela's doors will always be open, but we are a free country. We have been freed. We were once a North American colony, and we will not be one ever again."
In typical Chavez rhetoric, he said even Jesus talked to the devil, so he too, is willing to talk to Bush. Chavez said he would set conditions because "the devil has many forms of temptation".
The US has long raised concerns that Chavez has eroded democratic institutions in Venezuela, while Chavez regularly accuses Washington of plotting to oust him from office.