TEARS FOR THEIR LEADER: Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gather outside the National Assembly in Caracas yesterday. —Photo: AFP

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Chavez's swearing-in could be postponed

Vice President:

lCARACAS

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could be sworn in by the Supreme Court later on if he's not able to take the oath of office before lawmakers next week because of his struggle with cancer, his vice president said last Friday.

The stance announced by Vice President Nicolas Maduro conflicts with the argument by some opposition leaders that the president of the National Assembly would have to take over as interim president if Chavez were unable to attend his inauguration as scheduled Thursday.

Maduro's remarks sent the strongest signal yet that the government may seek to postpone Chavez's inauguration due to his delicate condition after surgery in Cuba. His position appeared likely to generate friction between the government and opposition over the legality of putting off the swearing-in, which the constitution says should occur on Thursday before the National Assembly.

Maduro says Chavez, as a re-elected president, remains in office beyond the inauguration date stipulated in the constitution, and could be sworn in if necessary before the Supreme Court at a later date to be determined.

"The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved before the Supreme Court of Justice, at the time (the court) deems in coordination with the head of state, Commander Hugo Chavez," Maduro said in a televised interview.

—See Page 24

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