* Chavez says U.S. and allies want Libyan oil
* Asserts U.N. has contravened its principles (Recasts, adds background)
By Daniel Wallis
CARACAS, March 19 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday that military action in Libya by the West's "men of war" is aimed at seizing the North African country's oil reserves.
Chavez spoke as a five-country coalition including the United States, France, Britain, Canada and Italy launched strikes on Libya designed to cripple Muammar Gaddafi's air defenses. [ID:nN19232327]
"They want to seize Libya's oil and they care nothing about the lives of the Libyan people," Chavez said on state TV, wearing a red hard-hat after touring a road building project in a poor neighborhood of Caracas.
"These are the men of war ... what irresponsibility. Behind this is the hand of the United States and its European allies, instead of taking the path that we have modestly proposed."
Venezuela's socialist leader is the most vocal critic of the United States in Latin America and an ally of Gaddafi.
Chavez announced a vague peace plan for Libya this month and said Gaddafi supported foreign mediation. [ID:nN03154291]
But it fizzled after Gaddafi's son, Saif al Islam, said they did not need help from friends in the South American country who lived very far away and had "no idea" about Libya. [ID:nLDE7222F7]
Chavez and Gaddafi are military men who cast themselves as anti-imperialist revolutionaries. They built an alliance based on left-wing economic ideas and membership of their nations in the OPEC oil producer group. [ID:nN03165400]
Chavez has presented Gaddafi with a replica of the sword of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar, and Libya had named a soccer stadium near Benghazi after Chavez -- which has since been renamed by Libya's rebel.
Chavez denounced the operations as a "pulverization" of international law and as a dangerous and unwarranted intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.
"Another imposition of the warmongering policies of the Imperial Yankee and its allies is unfortunate, and it is unfortunate that the United Nations endorses the war, in contravention of its fundamental principles," he said.
"We know what is going to happen: bombs, bombs, war, more suffering for the people ... this is the hand of capitalism." (Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Xavier Briand)