US President Donald Trump on Wednesday reiterated his full backing for Juan Guaido as that South American country's interim head of state.
Guaido, the speaker of Venezuela's National Assembly (unicameral leiglature), proclaimed himself acting president on Jan. 23, dismissing leftist Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's head of state since 2013, as an usurper.
"I appreciate the phone call from the president of the United States, Donald Trump, who reiterated his complete support for our democratic work, commitment to humanitarian aid and his administration's recognition for our (interim) presidency," Guaido wrote on Twitter.
Since Guaido told a group of supporters last week that he was assuming the powers of the presidency, some 30 countries have formally recognized him as acting head of state, including the United States, Canada, Brazil and Colombia.
For his part, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez urged Maduro to call new elections within eight days, saying that otherwise Spain also would recognize Guaido.
Besides Spain, the governments of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Portugal have issued Maduro the same ultimatum.
But in an interview Wednesday with Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Maduro said he rejects "ultimatums and blackmail" aimed at forcing him to hold new presidential elections and defended the legitimacy of the May 2018 balloting that the opposition boycotted.
"There were presidential elections in Venezuela. There was a result and if imperialism (the US and its allies) wants new elections then they can wait until 2025," Maduro said, adding that he does, however, support moving up legislative elections currently scheduled for 2020.
The president said such a move could be carried out by the National Constituent Assembly, a plenipotentiary body whose creation by Maduro's government in 2017 sidelined the opposition-controlled National Assembly, whose speaker is Guaido.
Maduro said early legislative elections could serve "as an escape valve for the tensions that the imperialist coup has created in Venezuela."
In the interview with RIA Novosti, Maduro also said he was willing to enter into talks with the opposition.
"I am ready to sit down at the negotiating table with the opposition so that we can talk about what benefits Venezuela, for the world and its future," Maduro said, adding that several governments, including those in Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia and Russia, had expressed concern for Venezuela and advocated for dialogue.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump took credit for Maduro's willingness to engage in talks, saying that stance was due to new US sanctions that are aimed at depriving the already crisis-ridden South American country, which is racked by hyperinflation and food shortages and has seen the exodus of millions of citizens, of billions of dollars in oil revenues.
But on Wednesday Guaido's top envoy to the US, Carlos Vecchio, rejected Maduro's dialogue offer, saying the leftist leader was looking to "manipulate" the international community and gain time to continue repressing the Venezuelan people.
Maduro's government severed diplomatic ties with the US after the Trump administration formally recognized Guaido as interim president on Jan. 23.