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Venezuela

Venezuela tense as US, EU appeal for manual recount

The EU and US have urged Venezuelan authorities to recount ballots from last Sunday's disputed presidential election. But, Venezuela's supreme court says a manual count of the computerized system is impossible.

Venezuela remained tense on Wednesday, with the ruling party's candidate Nicolas Maduro preparing for a presidential inauguration on Friday while his opposition rival Henrique Capriles still refused to accept a thin 262,000-vote defeat declared by the country's electoral commission.

The opposition alleges vote fraud and irregularities, including damaged voting machines and voters being turned away by armed Maduro government supporters on Sunday.

In Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry told House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that there had been "huge irregularities" in Venezuela and there "ought to be a recount."

In Brussels, the EU's top foreign affairs official Catherine Ashton said she took note of calls on the "need for an audit of the vote."

Ashton said she regretted the loss of life in Venezuela. Maduro has blamed Capriles for the deaths of seven people on Monday as his supporters protested and demanded a recount. Capriles in turn asked Maduro to help calm the situation.

Voting system 'computerized'

Venezuelan Chief Justice Luisa Estela Morales said Wednesday that a manual recount was not possible because Venezuela's voting system had been computerized since 1999.

The only paper documentation was a paper receipt issued for every vote cast, Morales said.

Morales is the same judge who issued a controversial decision in March that made Maduro acting president at the moment his socialist mentor, Hugo Chavez, died of cancer.

Venezuela's National Electoral Council has ruled out a recount, saying Maduro got 50.75 percent of the votes compared to 48.98 percent for Capriles.

On Tuesday, Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas denied voting flaws, saying there was "no other option but to recognize that victory" attributed to Maduro.

The government said 15 countries had confirmed that they would send delegations to attend Maduro's swearing in. Many Latin American countries had said they recognize Maduro as victor.

During the late Chavez's 14-year presidential tenure, oil-rich Venezuela was often at odds with the United States in Latin America.

ipj/rc (APF, dpa, AP, Reuters)