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US pushes UN to demand aid be allowed into Venezuela

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"We will have a resolution this week which will certainly call for the admission of humanitarian aid into Venezuela," Mr Abrams told reporters ahead of the council meeting.

[UNITED NATIONS, United States] Slamming President Nicolas Maduro's "corrupt, fraudulent and incompetent reign," the United States on Tuesday said it would ask the UN Security Council to adopt a draft resolution demanding that humanitarian aid be allowed into Venezuela.

President Donald Trump's envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said a vote was expected this week at the council, even though such a measure is likely to face a veto from Russia.

"We will have a resolution this week which will certainly call for the admission of humanitarian aid into Venezuela," Mr Abrams told reporters ahead of the council meeting.

The push for a UN vote marked a major escalation in the US diplomatic campaign in support of Juan Guaido, the opposition leader who has declared himself interim president and is recognised by about 50 countries.

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Four people died in clashes over the weekend on Venezuela's borders during a bid by Mr Guaido to defy Mr Maduro and bring in humanitarian aid to help Venezuelans during a dire economic crisis.

Mr Maduro has accused the United States of using aid as a political tool, aimed at overthrowing him.

Addressing the council, Mr Abrams called on the world to support Mr Guaido and "address the destabilising results of Mr Maduro's corrupt, fraudulent and incompetent reign, which just this weekend brought instability and violence" to the borders of Brazil and Colombia.

VETO FROM RUSSIA, CHINA 

The draft resolution is likely to face a veto from China and Russia, which support Mr Maduro and have criticized the US stance on Venezuela as blatant interference in internal affairs.

Resolutions at the Security Council, which are legally binding, must garner nine votes and no vetoes from the five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - to be adopted.

Asked about a possible veto, Mr Abrams said: "I think it would be shameful to veto a resolution that calls for humanitarian aid."

Mr Guaido, who heads the opposition-led National Assembly, declared himself acting president on January 23, arguing that Mr Maduro had lost legitimacy as head of state.

Venezuela's economy is in a tailspin marked by hyperinflation and shortages of basic necessities that the opposition blames on corruption and mismanagement by the Maduro government.

Millions of Venezuelans have been left struggling with poverty, while 3.4 million have fled the country since 2015, unleashing a migration crisis in South America.

The United States earlier this month began discussing a draft resolution that would call for humanitarian aid and credible presidential elections with international observers, prompting Russia to present a counterproposal.

Mr Abrams indicated that Washington was weighing a watered-down text, focused on humanitarian aid.

Russia's text criticises "attempts to intervene" in Venezuela and expresses concern over threats of force after President Donald Trump said all options were on the table to address the Venezuela crisis.

Eight European countries including five Security Council members called for "free, transparent and credible presidential elections" in Venezuela.

AFP