Chile's Boric, after condemning Israel over Gaza, raises concerns with Biden

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By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Chilean President Gabriel Boric, who this week condemned Israeli military's air bombardment of Gaza and recalled his envoy to Israel, on Thursday said he told President Joe Biden that Israel's actions were violating international law.

Boric said he condemned the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by the Hamas militant group that killed 1,400 people, and called for the release of Israeli hostages, but added Israel's retaliatory bombardment of Gaza had been disproportionate and was violating international law.

"These Hamas attacks are without justification, they deserve global condemnation, but the response by Benjamin Netanyahu's government also deserves our clearest condemnation," he told reporters after his meeting with Biden at the White House.

"There's no doubt we can say the response has been disproportionate and is violating international humanitarian law," he said. "The right of a state to defend itself has limits, and those limits imply respecting the lives of innocent civilians, especially children, and respecting civil humanitarian law."

Asked about Biden's response, Boric said it was not his place to speak for the American president.

The White House issued a statement later on Thursday that said Biden had "reaffirmed our continued efforts to urgently increase and sustain the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance – including food, water, and medical care – to civilians in Gaza."

Biden is facing mounting pressure abroad and at home for failing to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, although the White House is now backing a series of "pauses" in the fighting to allow people to exit Gaza and aid to flow in.

Boric said he and Biden also discussed efforts to safeguard democracy in Latin America, and expressed his appreciation for Washington's recent decision to lift sanctions on Venezuela.

He said he also conveyed his desire to continue working with Brazil, Argentina and other countries to ensure free elections in Venezuela next year.

Boric called on Biden to lift sanctions on Cuba and remove it from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"We understand that this issue ignites strong emotions in the United States. However, we must consider that these sanctions are not targeting just a government; they are affecting a whole population. When a people suffer, it should concern all of us,” he added.

Boric and Biden shared a few light moments at the start of their meeting, comparing notes about being elected to office in their 20s.

"The only problem I have with you is you're too young," Biden told Boric, who is 37 years old. "That's not a problem," Boric shot back.

Biden said the two countries have been engaged in a bilateral relationship for 200 years, and the new Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP), whose leaders are meeting at the White House on Friday, would help boost economic prosperity across the Western Hemisphere.

Boric said he looked forward to strengthening ties with the U.S. and said he had a "lot of topics to discuss," including "the green transition, migration and economic development."

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Kylie Madry; editing by Dan Whitcomb Editing by Sandra Maler, Aurora Ellis and Simon Cameron-Moore)