Washington, Jan 04 (Agencies): The Obama administration left the door open to naming a new ambassador to Venezuela, possibly moving to defuse a row with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez over its first choice.

The comments by the State Department came on Monday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shook hands and chatted briefly with Chavez at the inauguration on Saturday of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said President Barack Obama's administration never formally withdrew its choice of Larry Palmer but "his nomination formally expired with the end of the last Congress”.

Crowley added: "We will have to renominate an ambassador candidate."
When asked if there could be a nominee other than Palmer, Crowley replied: "These are issues that we will be evaluating..."

A new Congress takes over this week following the US elections in November.
In June last year, Obama named Palmer to replace Patrick Duddy as the US ambassador to Caracas and had submitted his name to the Senate for approval.

From September 2008 to June 2009, Washington and Caracas withdrew their ambassadors as diplomatic relations reached a low point over US military bases in Colombia.

Chavez in August announced he would "veto" Palmer's appointment over his comments during his Senate confirmation hearing that Venezuela harboured leftist guerrillas from Colombia and that the Venezuelan military was under Cuban influence and low in morale.

Late last year the Chavez Government finally withdrew diplomatic approval for Palmer and the Obama administration then revoked the US visa for Bernardo Alvarez, the Venezuelan ambassador to Washington.

"We are interested in good relations with Venezuela. And obviously that involves, among other things, having ambassadors at post who can help to manage that engagement," Crowley said.