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BREAKING NEWS

U.S. seeks U.N. Security Council vote on Venezuela on Thursday-diplomats

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States has asked the United Nations Security Council to vote on Thursday on a draft resolution calling for free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, diplomats said. 

The draft resolution is likely to be opposed by Russia, the diplomats said. A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States to pass.

Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a U.S.-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader and head of the country’s elected National Assembly, over President Nicholas Maduro. Guaido last month declared himself the interim head of state.

Earlier this month the United States proposed a draft Security Council resolution, which prompted Russia to propose a rival text that makes no reference to elections or aid. A revised U.S. draft, seen by Reuters, was circulated on Wednesday. It was unclear if Russia planned to put its text to a vote as well. 

The U.S. draft asks U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to help ensure there is a free, fair and credible presidential election with international observers. It stresses the need to ensure the safety of all the members of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

The U.S. envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that he was concerned for Guaido’s safety upon his return to Venezuela.

Guaido crossed into Colombia on Saturday in preparation for efforts to move aid over the border to Venezuela. He then met with members of the Lima Group, a bloc of nations from Argentina to Canada, on Monday in Bogota. 

The United States and dozens of other nations have recognised Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate president, but Maduro still controls the military, state institutions and oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA [PDVSA.UL], which provides 90 percent of the country's export revenue.

The United States targeted Venezuela's government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of state-owned PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country over the weekend.

In Geneva, Venezuela Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council, suggested on Wednesday that Maduro and U.S. President Donald Trump meet to "try to find common ground and explain their differences."

Maduro also "stands ready for dialogue" with the Venezuelan opposition, he said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing By Cynthia Osterman)

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