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Published: Thursday February 20, 2014 MYT 4:25:01 AM
Updated: Thursday February 20, 2014 MYT 4:25:57 AM

U.S. considers reciprocating after Venezuela expelled diplomats

Washington (Reuters) - The United States said on Wednesday it was considering its response to Venezuela's expulsion of three U.S. diplomats and said this could include reciprocal action in Washington.

Venezuela ordered the expulsions on Monday, accusing the Americans of recruiting students to lead protests in Caracas that led to the most serious violence since President Nicolas Maduro's election in April.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, calling the accusations "baseless and false," said: "There's a couple of things we can do."

"One is, in accordance with article nine of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, and article 23 of the Vienna Convention on consular relations, the U.S. can take reciprocal action (in Washington)," she said.

Venezuela, a major oil exporting nation, has often expelled U.S. diplomats in recent years as the relationship between the two countries frayed during the 14-year rule of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

Five people have been killed in the current unrest. Protest leader Leopoldo Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, surrendered to troops on Tuesday after leading three weeks of demonstrations against Maduro's government.

(Reporting by David Storey; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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