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Venezuelan talks with opposition to restart this weekend

FILE PHOTO: Dag Nylander speaks next to Jorge Rodriguez, president of Venezuela's Congress and head of Maduro's negotiating team and Gerardo Blyde Perez of Venezuela's Unitary Platform during a news conference after the last round of talks in Mexico City, Mexico September 27, 2021. REUTERS/Luis Cortes//File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Dag Nylander speaks next to Jorge Rodriguez, president of Venezuela's Congress and head of Maduro's negotiating team and Gerardo Blyde Perez of Venezuela's Unitary Platform during a news conference after the last round of talks in Mexico City, Mexico September 27, 2021. REUTERS/Luis Cortes//File Photo

CARACAS :Venezuela's government and opposition are preparing to resume political talks this Saturday in Mexico after a hiatus of more than a year, opening a new chapter that could help pave the way for easing U.S. oil sanctions on the OPEC nation.

The talks, set to restart on Nov. 26, could alleviate its long-running political and economic crises and open the door for Washington to clear expanded operations in Venezuela by Chevron Corp.

Previous talks were suspended in October 2021 by the government of President Nicolas Maduro, upset by the U.S. extradition of a businessman with ties to his administration.

The talks are expected to cover a "social plan" to provide humanitarian aid of some US$3 billion in U.N.-administered funds. They will also address U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, presidential elections and the status of hundreds of political prisoners.

"We are convinced that this social agreement will open the doors to advance the extensive agenda of national dialogue, in the fulfillment of all its objectives for the good of our country," Jorge Rodriguez, president of the ruling party-dominated National Assembly, said in a written statement shortly after the announcement.

U.S. Department of State official Brian Nichols welcomed the return to dialogue among the parties.

"We hope they will work toward alleviating the humanitarian challenges facing Venezuelans, and free and fair elections," he said on Twitter.

Later on Thursday, Maduro said the renewed talks were "dialogue with the embittered."

"We have engaged in dialogue with the extremist sector," Maduro said during a broadcast on state television; "the political sector dependent on the United States."

He said the aim of the talks would be to recover seized resources and invest them in the people.

"Later we will see what other issues can be discussed with this opposition," he added.

Renewed political dialogue in Venezuela has been repeatedly delayed due to disagreements over the terms, especially related to elections, as well as the origin of the funds for the social plan, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

Three sources told Reuters the United States was preparing an extended a license for oil company Chevron's operations in Venezuela if the meeting between the Venezuelan government and the opposition took place.

Chevron could win U.S. approval as soon as Saturday, once the talks resume, which would help rebuild sagging oil production in the Latin American nation.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Deisy Buitrago and Mayela Armas in Caracas, Terje Solsvik in Oslo and Diego Ore and Brendan O'Boyle in Mexico City; Writing by Steven Grattan; Editing by Sandra Maler and Bradley Perrett)

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