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Venezuela's Supreme Court chief on Wednesday endorsed putting off President Hugo Chavez's inauguration, siding with the government in a heated dispute with the opposition while the ailing leader struggles with complications a month after cancer surgery in Cuba.

Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales made the statement after the opposition urged the top court to rule that the government was violating the constitution by delaying the swearing-in for a new term, which had been scheduled for Thursday. Lawmakers voted Tuesday to delay the ceremony, allowing Chavez to take the oath of office at an unspecified later date before the Supreme Court.

Morales also said the Supreme Court hasn't considered appointing a panel of doctors, as opposition politicians have demanded, to evaluate whether Chavez is fit to remain in office after remaining out of public view since before his Dec. 11 operation.

Her announcement seemed to pre-empt any opposition attempt to challenge the postponed inauguration. She announced the decision saying the inauguration can be performed before the Supreme Court, at a time and place to be determined.

"We know it's necessary, and undoubtedly the inauguration is going to be carried out, but at this time we can't anticipate when," Morales told reporters at a news conference.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles condemned the Supreme Court's endorsement of delaying the inauguration. "Institutions should not respond to the interests of a government," he said at a news conference.


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