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EU Nations Back Venezuela's Guaido As Interim Leader

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (left) and opposition leader Juan Guaido (composite file photo)

More than half of the countries which make up the European Union have recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president.

The move on February 4 came after the expiry of an eight-day deadline set by Britain, France, Germany, and other EU members for embattled President Nicolas Maduro to call new elections.

Guaido, who leads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim leader last month, and won support from major powers including the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the Europeans' concerted action and urged other countries to "support the Venezuelan people by recognizing Interim President Guaido and supporting the National Assembly's efforts to return constitutional democracy to Venezuela."

The Kremlin, which has sided with Maduro from the beginning of the crisis, slammed European "interference" in the Latin American country, saying it was an attempt "to legitimize usurped power."

Maduro took office in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez, and was sworn in for a second term in January following elections in May 2018 that were marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.

He has been criticized for alleged human rights abuses and for his handling of Venezuela's economy.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, RIA-Novosti, and the BBC