Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez called on his country to prepare for a possible war, once again criticizing a military cooperation agreement between Colombia and the U.S., the country''s VTV television channel reported.

"The empire is alive and is as threatening than ever," Chavez said quoted by local television, adding that the U.S. base is located just 20 minutes away from the capital of the country, Caracas.

The 10-year deal signed between the United States and Colombia on October 30 during a brief closed-door ceremony in Bogota envisions the deployment of some 800 U.S. military personnel and 600 civilian contractors at seven military bases in Colombia.

Last week Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said that the presence of U.S. troops in Colombia "poses a serious threat to stability in the region."

Both Washington and Bogota insist that the agreement concerns "practical aid" in measures against drug trafficking and domestic insurgents, primarily the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist guerilla movement, but Venezuela continues to see the deal as a threat to its national security.

Ecuador and Bolivia earlier claimed that the planned U.S. military deployment was "suspiciously large for its stated purpose."