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Caracas ready to negotiate with opp. ‘within next 15 days’

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza says the government of President Nicolas Maduro is ready to sit at the negotiating table with the opposition “within the next 15 days,” even as he voices skepticism about opposition intentions to pursue real dialog.

Arreaza made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Iran’s Spanish-language television channel, HispanTV, on Thursday.

“If the opposition is ready, we are prepared to sit with them at the negotiating table in Caracas, or in Montevideo, or in Tehran, within the next 15 days,” the Venezuelan foreign minister said.

But the top Venezuelan diplomat said the opposition was not interested in talks.

“The opposition is only after going ahead with the coup d’état that the US has planned,” Arreaza noted. “They will be defeated once again, however.”

He said top US officials, including President Donald Trump, were “openly” provoking the Venezuelan people against President Maduro and his legitimate government.

“What has happened in Venezuela today is an attempt at a coup d’état, a coup whose leaders are not Venezuelan citizens but, rather, the US government and officials like Donald Trump, Mike Pence, [National Security Adviser] John Bolton, and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo, who are openly provoking people against President Nicolas Maduro,” Arreaza said.

‘Ready for any contingency’

The US has on several occasions said that the “military option” is on the table to oust the elected government of Maduro.

Arreaza said Caracas was prepared for any possible scenario, including foreign military intervention in the Latin American country.

“Our Armed Forces are prepared. We have a professional army of more than 200,000 personnel. We have an additional 2,000,000-plus paramilitary force… We are prepared for any scenario,” he said.

He also accused Washington of bringing financial woes to Caracas, saying US sanctions had inflicted a 35-billion-dollar damage on the country’s economy in almost a year and a half.

Arreaza, however, stressed that the Latin American nation would resist all US pressures.

Venezuela has been in political turmoil in the past couple of weeks, with the opposition blaming the country’s President Maduro over an ailing economy, hyperinflation, power cuts, and shortages of basic items, urging him to resign.

Political crisis deepened in the South American country on January 23, when opposition figure Juan Guaido, a lawmaker who leads the defunct National Assembly, proclaimed himself the “interim president” of the country until new elections and accused Maduro’s government as being illegitimate. Trump was quick in officially recognizing him as such, a move that infuriated Caracas.

Arreaza said, however, that Venezuela was “in complete peace,” and indicated that people backed the government, which in turn energized Caracas to defend the people.

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