Venezuela names new charge d'affaires in Washington

President Nicolas Maduro named a ruling party lawmaker as Venezuela's charge d'affaires in Washington Tuesday, taking "positive note" of a US statement denying it was considering sanctions against Caracas.

"I have decided to name deputy Calixto Ortega as the charge d'affaires in the embassy in Washington to increase the dialogue with US society," Maduro said.

Ortega would replace Angelo Rivera, who currently holds the post. The two countries, which have long had strained relations, have not been represented by ambassadors since 2010.

The overture came a day after Caracas threatened retaliatory actions affecting trade and energy if the United States imposed sanctions in a row over Venezuela's disputed April 14 elections to replace late leader Hugo Chavez.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said he was "not aware of any particular effort afoot in terms of sanctions on Venezuela at this point."

But Roberta Jacobson, the assistant US secretary of state in charge of Latin America, was quoted in an interview over the weekend as not responding one way or another when asked whether the United States would impose sanctions if Venezuela refused a vote recount sought by the opposition.

"I think the Venezuelan side may have looked at that and read into (it) we're considering something, and I'm saying that that's not something that we're currently contemplating at this moment," Ventrell said of sanctions.

Maduro said Venezuela wanted "the best relations with all the governments of the world, and with the government of the United States, but on the basis of respect. There can be no threats of any kind."

"Therefore if the statement by the State Department spokesman can be taken as an official position of the United States we take positive note of that statement," he said.