BOGOTA Colombia's former leader Alvaro Uribe on Sunday rejected an accusation by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that Uribe was plotting to kill him as the desperate ploy of a dictator trying to hide his illegitimacy.
In the latest in a string of explosive accusations from Hugo Chavez's recently-elected successor, Maduro said on Friday he had evidence that Uribe was conspiring with the Venezuelan opposition to kill him.
Uribe, a conservative and staunch U.S. ally, was often at odds with the hardline socialist Chavez during their respective rules. He has also questioned Maduro's disputed election victory last month.
In a statement issued by his lawyer Jaime Granados, Uribe said Maduro's accusations were part of a scheme to silence criticism and distract Venezuelans from other issues.
"These comments reflect a desperate person who holds power illegitimately and is now trying to divert attention from corruption and unlawful acts carried out by the dictatorship he runs," Granados said in the statement published in local media.
Excerpts from the statement were Tweeted by Uribe.
His lawyer also said he would ask the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intervene because Maduro's comments could endanger his client's life.
Uribe urged Colombia's attorney general to investigate Maduro over the "irresponsible slanders and threats," in case the Venezuelan leader ever visits Colombia.
However, Uribe's fury at the accusation is unlikely to lead to firm action by the Colombian government given his poor relations with President Juan Manuel Santos and Bogota's desire to keep good ties with Maduro's administration across the border.
Like the late Chavez, his self-professed "son" Maduro has frequently made allegations of assassination attempts, but rarely presented anything resembling proof or demonstrated who was supposed to be responsible for them.
(Reporting by Eduardo Garcia.; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Christopher Wilson)