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Letting Venezuela chair world disarmament body would be ‘travesty’: US

The United States urged countries Friday to block Venezuela’s upcoming chairmanship of the Conference on Disarmament, insisting that having a representative of President Nicolas Maduro preside over the body would be “a travesty”.

US Ambassador Robert Wood addressed the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) to “record my government’s strong opposition to a representative of the former Maduro regime occupying the seat reserved for Venezuela.”

According to a written version of the statement he presented, he voiced particular outrage that Venezuela is due to assume the rotating presidency of the CD at the end of May, just after the US presidency.

“Having a representative of the former Maduro regime presiding over this august body would be a travesty,” Wood said.

The CD is a multilateral disarmament forum that holds three sessions a year. It negotiates arms control and disarmament accords and focuses on the cessation of the nuclear arms race.

Wood warned that allowing a Maduro representative to take the reins of the body risked “further undermining the credibility of the CD” after Syria was permitted to take the presidency last year despite protests from the US and others.

Several diplomats rushed to Venezuela’s defence, including the Syrian representative, who accused the US of taking the CD “hostage” with its political agenda, and the Cuban representative, who questioned why Wood was using the diplomatic meeting “for a political circus.”

The United States is among more than 50 countries that have recognised Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

But Maduro — backed by the country’s military as well as Russia, China and dozens of other states — has so far refused to relinquish his office.

“In order to preserve the integrity, dignity and respect for this chamber, Maduro representatives must vacate the chair reserved for the government of Venezuela,” Wood said.

He called on “all responsible countries represented in this room to stand with the people of Venezuela by calling on Maduro’s sycophants not to assume the presidency of the CD later this year.”

“Let us not give one iota of legitimacy to this decrepit, dictatorial regime,” he insisted.

Venezuela is enduring the biggest economic crisis in its modern history, with hyperinflation predicted to hit 10 million percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The United States is leading the push to topple Maduro, with President Donald Trump refusing to rule out military action against the leftist leader.