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US Treasury Secretary Urges Italy to Recognise Guaido as Venezuela's President

© AP Photo / J. Scott ApplewhiteTreasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, to testify at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee
Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, to testify at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee - Sputnik International
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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has held talks with his Italian counterpart, Giovanni Tria, during which the former urged Rome to follow Washington's lead in recognising opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president, the Treasury Department said.

"Secretary Mnuchin affirmed American recognition of Juan Guaido as the Interim President of Venezuela, and urged Italy to join the United States in doing so", the statement read.

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The meeting, which took place on 29 January, came a day after the United States froze $7 billion in assets belonging to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA under its jurisdiction and imposed a ban on deals with the firm as part of an effort to facilitate a power transfer to "the interim president or a subsequent democratically elected government".

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that by blocking PDVSA's assets, the United States is preserving the assets of this company in the interests of the people of Venezuela.

During the meeting, the sides also discussed economic, trade, as well as "ongoing security issues pertaining to Iran and Russia".

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On 23 January, the speaker of the opposition-led Venezuelan National Assembly, Guaido, declared himself interim head of state amid ongoing anti-government protests. The United States and a number of other countries that disputed last year’s re-election of President Nicholas Maduro, have recognised the opposition leader. Maduro, for his part, has slammed Guaido as a US "puppet" and accused Washington of organising a coup in the country.

Russia, Mexico, and Uruguay were among those that voiced support for Maduro as the country's only legitimate president and expressed readiness to act as mediators in the conflict between the government and the opposition.

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