Maduro speaks before the new constituent assembly

US oil refiners push back on potential economic sanctions against Venezuela

Despite Venezuela's growing isolation, key allies hang on

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro said he wants a meeting with President Donald Trump, the same man he ridicules as a crass imperial magnate, as the USA weighs slapping crippling economic sanctions on his socialist administration.

The Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza has summoned the ambassadors of the countries that took part in a meeting in Lima.

He also said he would challenge the sanctions in a USA court.

He said he had also given orders, "if it can happen", for a face-to-face to be organized in NY on September 20 when heads of state and government from around the world gather for a UN General Assembly.

Sanctions could expand the interests of Cuba, China and Russian Federation in Venezuela's oil business. "Mr Donald Trump, here is my hand", he said.

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They have invested heavily in the country's oil sector, and when the United States banned the sale and transfer of North American weapons and military technology to Venezuela in 2006, Caracas turned to Russian Federation and China instead.

On Thursday, the opposition accused the government Thursday of persecution after the supreme court this week sentenced two of its mayors to 15 months in prison for not preventing anti-government protests.

President Nicolas Maduro this year led the creation of the legislative superbody, an all powerful group known as the constituent assembly that was elected in July amid an opposition boycott.

David Smolansky is the fifth opposition mayor to be removed or jailed in little more than two weeks as President Nicolas Maduro attempts to consolidate his power by going after his enemies.

The senators said sanctions on shipments of Venezuelan oil to the United States could also increase the likelihood of a disorderly default by Venezuela, given the oil business is its main source of revenue.

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More than 125 people have died in violence since the opposition began a sustained wave of protests in April.

The opposition says the leftist government of Maduro is to blame for the crisis.

Raul Castro said the election of the Constituent Assembly demonstrates the "popular support" in a "clear and emphatic" way "to the legacy of El Libertador Simon Bolívar and President Hugo Chavez".

After the Treasury Department announced direct sanctions on Maduro last week, he poked fun at Trump for becoming president through the electoral college but losing the popular vote in the November election.

The body has usurped the powers of the national assembly, and is tasked with rewriting the south American country's constitution.

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WATCH Inside Story: Venezuela: New beginnings or more of the same?

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