• The Associated Press

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday applauded Barack Obama’s promise to lead the world into a future free of nuclear weapons and said he was open to working with the new U.S. president.

“With this statement, it is as if an ‘Obama missile’ has landed,” Chavez said in Tokyo of Obama’s call to eliminate nuclear bombs.

He said Venezuela is still “watching and evaluating” the new U.S. administration, but it is “very different” from the Bush era, with an increased possibility of cooperation.

The often outspoken Venezuelan leader, who has been critical of the U.S. and Obama in the past, continued to soften his stance ahead of the April 17-19 Summit of the Americas to take place in Trinidad and Tobago.

Chavez said Saturday he was willing to “reset” relations with the U.S., after saying last week the country was acting like an “empire” and last month calling Obama “ignorant” after he accused the Venezuelan leader of “exporting terrorism.”

The socialist president spoke to reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Japan. He was to fly to China next.

Chavez said his trip to Japan went extremely well, hailing a set of new projects that could bring $33.5 billion in investment to Venezuela.

Prime Minister Taro Aso and Chavez agreed Monday to deepen ties in energy, investment and trade, with Japanese companies ready to participate in gas and crude production in the Latin American country.

“I couldn’t say this yesterday morning, but I can say it today. I can now consider Prime Minister Aso Taro to be a friend,” Chavez said.

He said the agreements could create a “new model” for deals between developing countries and economic superpowers like Japan.

“Our countries, with their different nature, can still create an equal relationship. That is the model we are trying to create,” he said.

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