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Delegates of President Nicolas Maduro's government and Venezuela's opposition coalition meet for a round of talks, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Roberto Guzman


By Jorge Pineda

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - Members of Venezuela's leftist government and opposition leaders resumed talks in the Dominican Republic on Friday, seeking to reach an agreement to ease a deep political and economic crisis in the OPEC member.

The two sides failed to come to terms in a prior round of talks last December, when they concluded by saying they had made progress but needed more time. Expectations among Venezuelans for a deal this time around are low.

Opposition coalition Democratic Unity "is attending the meeting in good faith, to seek a way of allowing Venezuelans to build a route to the future," tweeted party lawmaker Luis Florido on Thursday.

The opposition leaders are demanding that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accept humanitarian assistance from abroad to ease a crisis that has led to shortages of food and basic goods for millions of people.

They are also calling for the release of several hundred jailed political activists.

Government representatives want the opposition to push for the elimination of sanctions levied last year by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, which have added to economic woes and complicated a debt restructure.

Maduro said during a summit with leftist allies in Caracas on Friday that he had given his delegation precise instructions to push forward talks in an effort to improve the economy and guarantee a presidential election in 2018.

"I hope that deliberations at the negotiating table that we've set up in the Dominican Republic...have verifiable and prompt results," he said.

Dominican President Danilo Medina is leading the negotiations, which also include representatives from Bolivia, Chile, Mexico and Nicaragua.

Some of the participating countries have threatened to withdraw if agreements are not reached in this round.

"If there are no concrete and credible results, then there will be no point in moving forward," Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz wrote on his Twitter account on Thursday.

Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that it was also "evaluating" its participation.

Previous talks, including a 2016 round facilitated by the Vatican, failed to reach agreement.

(Additional reporting by Diego Ore in Mexico City and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas,; Writing by Michael O'Boyle and Daina Beth Solomon,; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Lisa Shumaker)

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