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US, Venezuela trade barbs at UNSC meeting


IANS United Nations
Representatives of the US and Venezuela crossed swords in the UN Security Council during a special session on the situation in the Andean nation, convened at Washington's request.
The US is one of the roughly 50 nations that have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's acting head of state and denounced incumbent leftist President Nicolas Maduro as illegitimate, Efe news reported on Tuesday.
"We call on the members of the Security Council to join us in meeting the growing needs in Venezuela and the region. We call on member states to consider what resources and tools they have to contribute to Venezuelan democracy and to pressure the illegitimate Maduro regime to peacefully step down," the US special representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said.
He said that the world should back Guaido and "address the destabilizing results of Maduro's corrupt, fraudulent and incompetent reign, which just this weekend brought instability and violence" to the borders of Brazil and Colombia.
Abrams was referring to clashes that occurred Saturday as Guaido supporters tried to force their way into Venezuela with US-donated aid rejected by Maduro as a stalking horse for military invention.
Four people died on the Brazilian border and more than 200 others were injured in disturbances on the boundary with Colombia.
The US official, who became famous in the 1980s for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, went on to dismiss appeals from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and others for dialogue between the Maduro government and the opposition.
Abrams told reporters ahead of the session that the US would present this week in the Security Council a resolution calling "for the admission of humanitarian aid into Venezuela" and demanding new elections in the oil-rich country.
The two most powerful nations standing with Maduro, China and Russia, hold permanent UNSC seats and can veto any resolution.
In his remarks, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza asked the Security Council to pass a resolution rejecting "the threat and the use of force" against his country.
Citing what he described as US preparations for war in Venezuela, he urged the council to "exclude that option completely," after Abrams reiterated Washington's "all options are on the table" position.
The Foreign Minister said that the violence last weekend on the Colombian border was initiated by Guaido supporters who accompanied the trucks loaded with aid, emphasising that most of the wounded were members of the Venezuelan security forces.
"That was the last chapter in the coup on Saturday," he said, before directly addressing Abrams in English: "Read my lips - it failed. Now is the time for us to return to sanity."
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia also weighed in on the events at Venezuela's borders.
"What took place on Saturday was reminiscent not of assistance but what is called force-feeding in the US," he said, going on to ask rhetorically how other countries would have responded to "an attempted illegal state border crossing for the delivery of unknown cargo."
"One country even wants to build a huge wall on the border of another country to prevent an illegal border crossing," Nebenzia said, alluding to US President Donald Trump's desire to build a wall on his country's border with Mexico.

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First Published: Feb 27 2019 | 6:54 AM IST

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