UN studying request to help prepare Venezuela vote

Venezuelan opposition candidate Henri Falcon joined the country's ambassador in a meeting requesting that United Nations observers monitor upcoming presidential polls

The United Nations said Tuesday it is considering a request from Venezuela to help prepare the May 20 presidential election in which President Nicolas Maduro is seeking a new term.

UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman met for two hours at UN headquarters with opposition candidate Henri Falcon, Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada and other opposition representatives to discuss the request.

"The UN Secretariat is considering a request from the Venezuelan government for accompaniment of the electoral process in the run-up to presidential polls set for 20 May," said Jose Luis Diaz, a spokesman for UN political affairs.

Maduro is seeking a second six-year term and the main opposition is boycotting the vote, claiming fraud.

Falcon told reporters after the meeting that a UN "exploratory commission" will carry out an in-depth review of the electoral procedure.

The commission falls short of a formal UN observer mission, but it could help Venezuela move towards "an electoral path and not the path of violence," said Falcon.

Opposition parties have sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asking him not to send observers, out of fears such a move would lend legitimacy to the polls.

Falcon, 56, is a member of the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, but has defied a call to boycott the May 20 vote.

Violent protests erupted last year against Maduro's rule in which dozens have died as Venezuelans struggle with chronic shortages of food and medicine.