03:27 GMT +313 December 2019
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    From left, National Security Adviser John Bolton, accompanied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and President Donald Trump

    Trump Contradicts Pompeo and Bolton's Venezuela Claims After Call With Putin

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    Earlier, Moscow dismissed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's "surreal" claims about "Russian interference" in the Latin America, saying that it was Russia's "principled position" not to interfere in other nations' affairs.

    President Donald Trump appeared to contradict his own senior officials' claims about Russian "involvement" in Venezuela on Friday following his telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    "We talked about many things. Venezuela was one of the topics. And he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he'd like to see something positive happen for Venezuela. And I feel the same way," Trump said, speaking to reporters in Washington on Friday during a meeting with the Slovak prime minister.

    According to Trump, the US wanted to help Venezuela on a "humanitarian basis," including with the delivery of food and water to the country's "starving" population. "I thought it was a very positive conversation I had with President Putin on Venezuela," Trump said.

    Trump's remarks appeared to stand at odds with earlier claims by several of his key officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, about alleged Russian "interference" in Venezuela.

    On Wednesday, Pompeo had a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, telling him that Russia should "not interfere" in the Latin American country. Lavrov called the allegations of Russian involvement "rather surreal" and said that Russia's "principled position" was to "never interfere in the affairs of others."

    Earlier, Bolton warned countries "external to the Western Hemisphere," including Russia against deploying military forces in Venezuela, and signaled the US administration's readiness to use the Monroe Doctrine in its policy toward Latin America. US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams similarly indicated that the US might impose sanctions against Russia over Moscow's military assistance to Venezuela, telling reporters that "the Russians will pay a price for this" for their meddling earlier this year.

    Pompeo, Bolton and acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan met at the pentagon on Friday to discuss military options in Venezuela, with Shanahan reiterating the White House's oft-repeated claim that all options remained "on the table" in resolving the Venezuelan crisis and dismissing concerns about a lack of good intelligence on the Venezuelan country.

    Later Friday, unnamed sources told CNN that President Trump had asked questions "about the reliability of US intelligence" on Venezuela, given that the expected military uprising hoped for by opposition leader Juan Guaido "and some US officials" earlier this week failed to pay off.

    The long-standing crisis in Venezuela escalated on Tuesday, after Guaido announced the beginning of the "final phase" of the "Operation Freedom" campaign to topple the government, and urged members of the military to defect and join the opposition. The call to action led to clashes in the capital between security forces and the opposition, leaving dozens injured. A day later, Maduro appeared on television to announce that the coup had failed, and to say that a criminal investigation aiming to uncover its organisers had been launched.

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    Tags:
    contradictions, meddling, interference, phone call, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, United States, Russia, Venezuela
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