CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez proposed on Monday an international mediation effort to seek a peaceful solution to the uprising against his friend and political ally Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
The firebrand South American socialist leader said he had already discussed the idea with some members of the ALBA bloc of left-wing Latin American nations and some other countries in Europe and South America.
"I hope we can create a commission that goes to Libya to talk with the government and the opposition leaders," he said in a speech on live TV. "We want a peaceful solution ... We support peace in the Arab world and in the whole world."
The United States and other foreign governments discussed military options on Monday as the Libyan leader scoffed at the threat from a spreading popular uprising and forces loyal to him massed in the country's west.
Without giving further details of the proposed mediation mission, Chavez said it was better to seek "a political solution instead of sending marines to Libya, and better to send a goodwill mission than for the killing to continue."
Along with leftist Latin American governments in Cuba and Nicaragua, Venezuela has alleged that Western powers want to occupy the North African nation for its oil wealth.
Chavez, who is the main critic of U.S. power in the region, has showered Gaddafi with gifts and praise as a fellow revolutionary on six visits to Libya since he won office in the South American OPEC member in 1998.
Gaddafi came to Venezuela in 2009, giving Chavez a Bedouin tent and receiving a replica copy of the sword of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.
The Venezuelan said it would be hypocritical of him to join the chorus of international condemnation of Gaddafi now.
"As everyone says today that Gaddafi is a murderer, then Chavez has to say so too? I'm not convinced," he said.
"I am not going to condemn from afar. That would be cowardly with someone who has been my friend and our friend for a long time, without knowing what is happening in Libya ... I am not a coward, I am not fickle."
Chavez opponents say his links with Gaddafi, and refusal to condemn his violence against opponents, demonstrate the similarly autocratic nature of the Venezuelan leader.
Pro-opposition newspapers have been showing daily pictures of the two men together at past meetings.
Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Eric Walsh