Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's ill health is likely to prevent him from being able to take his fourth oath of office before the National Assembly on 10 January.
Chavez, who won his fourth term after last October, is fighting a severe infection in his lungs and receiving treatment in a Cuban hospital. The infection arose following a cancer operation in December.
However, his vice-president, Nicolas Maduro, has claimed that Chavez will be able to be sworn into office by the Supreme Court later, with no consequences for missing his inauguration.
Appearing on Venezuelan television on Friday evening, Maduro said: "The constitution establishes that as a formality he should be sworn in before the National Assembly on 10 January."
Chavez has not been seen or heard from since he went to Cuba for his operation
"But already on 10 January, the new constitutional period begins and he continues his functions and he can take the oath of office, as stipulated in the Constitution, at the moment that he goes before the Supreme Court of Justice."
According to CNN, Venezuela's constitution is unclear on the exact procedure for Chavez to be sworn in by the Supreme Court.
There is no specific conditions as to whether the Supreme Court inauguration should happen prior to the 10 January, when the constitution says Chavez should be inaugurated, whether Chavez needs to be in the country or not, or who should preside over the country while Chavez is incapacitated.
Opponents of Chavez have called for a new round of elections if the 58-year-old is unable to attend the ceremony next week.
The president has not been seen or heard from since he travelled to Cuba for surgery last month, prompting speculation about the severity of his condition.
But his information minister, Ernesto Villegas, has accused opponents of manufacturing a "psychological war" on the administration with the "ultimate aim of destabilising the Bolivarian republic".
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