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FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo


By Robert-Jan Bartunek and Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is considering a "whole range of actions" in response to rising tensions in Venezuela, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday after the head of the bloc's parliament called for targeted sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela jailed two leading Maduro critics on Tuesday in a fresh blow to the opposition after deadly protests erupted around an election last Sunday, prompting the United States to impose sanctions on the leftist president.

Washington and the EU tend to coordinate their sanctions but the bloc has been divided over how to respond. Spain has been the most vocal in advocating sanctions, while others have so far mostly been cautious.

The European Parliament head, Antonio Tajani, joined the small choir calling to punish Maduro.

In a letter Tajani said that following the "unjustified arrests" of opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez, he would like to consider "freezing assets and imposing travel ban to the EU to the members of the Venezuelan government including its President, Nicolas Maduro and its entourage".

Since the bloc needs unanimity to introduce sanctions, diplomats in Brussels said that did not seem imminent.

Catherine Ray, a spokeswoman for the EU's executive Commission in Brussels, told a news briefing:

"Consultations with member states are ongoing to ensure an appropriate and coordinated response by the EU. Obviously the whole range of actions is (being) discussed."

Diplomats explained the bloc was working on joint declaration on Venezuela, where clashes last Sunday marred the election of a new political body with sweeping powers to strengthen the hand of the leftist government.

The EU has suggested it might not recognise the result of the voting.

The diplomats said the declaration would threaten Maduro with more "measures" it can take against what Tajani described as a country "falling into dictatorship", but would not mention sanctions specifically.

On Monday, the United States government slapped sanctions on Maduro, freezing his assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and barring Americans from doing business with him.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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