Caracas: President Hugo Chavez said yesterday that Venezuela's intelligence agencies have "infiltrated" a group of military officials from the US Embassy who were allegedly involved in espionage.

Venezuelan authorities, including the vice-president, have accused officials at the US Embassy of involvement in a spying case in which several Venezuelan naval officers allegedly passed sensitive information to the Pentagon.

"I urge the Embassy of the United States in Venezuela to stop spying, we have you infiltrated ambassador, don't move much because we are watching you," said Chavez. "The military officers of the US Embassy are involved in espionage and we have them infiltrated."

Chavez, who has accused US President George W. Bush of backing efforts to overthrow his leftist government, threatened last week to arrest any American officials caught gathering intelligence on his military.

Officials from the US Embassy in Caracas have declined comment on the espionage accusations, and the US State Department has called the charges a domestic matter for Venezuela.

Hinting that Venezuela's intelligence services are well informed regarding the movements of US Embassy officials, Chavez said authorities under his command "know the colour of the furniture where they sit down to talk, looking for information".

The allegations by Chavez, who didn't provide details during his speech, have increased tensions between Caracas and Washington.

The charges were the latest in a string of allegations by Chavez, who has accused the US of supporting a strike in 2004 and expelled some American missionaries from Venezuela for alleged CIA links.