(Recasts with addition of vote on Russian proposal)
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on Thursday on rival U.S. and Russian draft resolutions on Venezuela, diplomats said, with Washington’s proposal calling for free and fair presidential elections and unhindered aid delivery.
The Russian draft text, seen by Reuters, expresses support for a political solution to the crisis and backs the Venezuelan government as the primary coordinator of international assistance efforts in the country.
A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass. Diplomats said the U.S. draft is likely to gain the minimum nine votes to force a likely Russian veto, while the Russian draft is expected to fail without the need for a U.S. veto.
Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a U.S.-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader and head of the country’s elected National Assembly, over President Nicholas Maduro. Guaido last month declared himself the interim head of state.
The U.S. draft resolution, seen by Reuters, asks U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to help ensure there is a free, fair and credible presidential election with international observers. It stresses the need to ensure the safety of all the members of Venezuela’s National Assembly.
The U.S. envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that he was concerned for Guaido’s safety upon his return to Venezuela.
Guaido crossed into Colombia on Saturday in preparation for efforts to move aid over the border to Venezuela. He then met with members of the Lima Group, a bloc of nations from Argentina to Canada, on Monday in Bogota.
The Russian draft resolution expresses concern over threats to use force against Venezuela. U.S. President Donald Trump has all options are on the table in dealing with Venezuela.
The United States and dozens of other nations have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, but Maduro still controls the military, state institutions and oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, which provides 90 percent of the country’s export revenue.
The United States targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of state-owned PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country over the weekend.
In Geneva, Venezuela Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council, suggested on Wednesday that Maduro and U.S. President Donald Trump meet to “try to find common ground and explain their differences.”
Maduro also “stands ready for dialogue” with the Venezuelan opposition, he said. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker)