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Diplomats walk out as Venezuela hits US in UN speech

Diplomats leave the United Nations General Assembly in protest as Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza starts speaking about multilateralism
Diplomats leave the United Nations General Assembly in protest as Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza starts speaking about multilateralism AFP
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United Nations (United States) (AFP)

Several dozen diplomats walked out from the UN General Assembly Wednesday to protest a speech by Venezuela's foreign minister, who denounced US calls on the world body to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza took the General Assembly rostrum in the name of the Non-Aligned Movement as part of a special UN session devoted to the value of multilateralism.

Walking out were between 30 and 40 diplomats from the Lima Group, the coalition of Latin American nations and Canada that have nearly all recognized Guaido and declared the leftist Nicolas Maduro to be illegitimate after widely criticized elections.

In his speech, Arreaza accused the United States of wanting to "impose a dictatorship" at the United Nations through its "blatant attempt to expel or withdraw recognition of the credentials of member-states with full rights such as Venezuela."

"This is discriminatory and unacceptable," he told the session, in which the United States was not participating.

US Vice President Mike Pence traveled earlier this month to the United Nations where he denounced Maduro as a "dictator," part of a US push for the world body to recognize Guaido instead.

Venezuela is facing the worst crisis in its modern history with inflation expecting to soar a mind-boggling 10 million percent this year, contributing to a shortage of basic goods that has caused more than 2.7 million people to flee since 2015, according to the United Nations.

Iran, another nation under heavy US pressure, also appealed at the UN session for more multilateralism.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denounced the "unlawful, unilateralist policies" of President Donald Trump, ranging from withdrawing from a European-backed denuclearization deal with Iran to threatening the International Criminal Court for taking up accusations of war crimes against US troops.

"To defend multilateralism, it is imperative to deny the US any perceived benefit from its unlawful actions and to forcefully reject any pressure it brings to bear on others to violate international law and Security Council resolutions," Zarif said.

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