Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro rejected international demands to call new elections Sunday, as the political crisis in his country deepens days after the opposition leader declared himself interim president.
In an interview with CNN Turk aired Sunday, Maduro rejected an ultimatum given to him by a number of European countries - to hold elections within eight days or else they would recognize 35-year-old opposition leader Juan Guaido as president.
"They should withdraw this ultimatum. No one can give us an ultimatum," Maduro said in the interview dubbed into Turkish from Spanish.
Venezuela held presidential elections on May 20, 2018. Many voters boycotted, saying the polls were neither free nor fair. Several opposition members also were prevented from running.
The United States Sunday warned there would be a "significant response" to anyone who threatened or intimidated Guiado or U.S. diplomats.
"Any violence and intimidation against U.S. diplomatic personnel, Venezuela’s democratic leader, Juan Guiado, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response," Bolton wrote on Twitter.
Any violence and intimidation against U.S. diplomatic personnel, Venezuela’s democratic leader, Juan Guiado, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response. 2/2— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 27, 2019
On January 23, the democratically elected National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition, declared Maduro’s rule illegitimate. Invoking constitutional provisions, National Assembly leader Guaido declared himself interim president until there are new elections.
The United States called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on Saturday, where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged international leaders to "pick a side" on the issue.
Pompeo called the Maduro regime an “illegitimate mafia state” and criticized countries including Russia, China, Iran and Cuba for supporting him.
The United States has already recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela's president.
Earlier this week, Maduro accused Washington of instigating a coup d’état and told U.S. diplomats they had until this weekend to leave the country. Maduro has since backed down and has agreed to 30 days to finalize the diplomats' roles in Venezuela.
Speaking from Panama, the Pope called for a just and peaceful solution to the conflict.
"Faced with the grave situation it is going through, I ask the Lord that a just and peaceful solution is sought and achieved in order to overcome the crisis, respecting human rights [and] the good of all the people of the country," he said.
Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.