CARACAS, Jan 5, (agencies): The Venezuelan government has said President Hugo Chavez can begin his new six-year term in office Thursday, even if he is too ill to attend a swearing-in ceremony, reports BBC.
Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said the Supreme Court could swear in Mr Chavez at a later date. He dismissed opposition calls for new elections should Mr Chavez not attend.
Meanwhile: Venezuela's National Assembly meets Saturday to elect its leadership in a session that also is expected to thrash out the country's political future as President Hugo Chavez battles cancer in Cuba.
The elections will be a key political test for its current leader Diosdado Cabello, the regime's number three and a perceived rival for power with Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor.
Both men have denied persistent reports of a power struggle between them and vowed to maintain party unity.
In convening the session, Cabello called on Chavez supporters to rally outside the parliament building "to exhort revolutionary unity and head off the campaign of rumors."
Cabello was expected to win reelection as president of the assembly, which is controlled by Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
But if he fails to keep his post, it would give credence to the view that a fight for dominance in a post-Chavez Venezuela is already underway.
So far, Chavez has refused to relinquish power despite four round of surgery and debilitating complications that have kept out of public view in Havana for nearly a month, the longest stretch in his 14 years in power.
President Chavez is in Cuba struggling to recover from his latest round of surgery to treat cancer. He has not been seen in public since the operation more than three weeks ago.
Observers have different interpretations of what it would mean if Mr Chavez misses his inauguration Thursday.
Some in the opposition have said that if Mr Chavez is still in Cuba, power should pass to the speaker of parliament, and new elections should be held within 30 days.