Venezuela dispute prompts urgent meeting of regional leaders

LIMA (Reuters) - Several South American presidents will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday in Peru to discuss the political crisis in Venezuela following the disputed election of President Nicolas Maduro, officials said on Wednesday.

Senior government officials did not say if the meeting was being held as a show of support for Maduro, or whether regional leaders wanted to issue a collective call for calm in Venezuela, where protests have flared since Maduro's narrow win by about 2 percentage points.

Maduro, the chosen successor to deceased former President Hugo Chavez, will be sworn in on Friday.

The governments of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Argentina, among others, have recognized Maduro's victory, but Washington has not.

The meeting will be held under the umbrella of regional group Unasur in Lima on Thursday evening, senior government officials said. Peru holds the rotating presidency of the group. Unasur election monitors have said Maduro's win was legitimate.

The presidents of Peru, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil will attend the meeting and other leaders may also participate, officials said.

The outcome of Sunday's presidential vote has been rejected by his rival, Henrique Capriles, who has alleged thousands of irregularities at polling centres and wants a full audit of the ballots.

Eight people have died in opposition-led protests. The government has accused Capriles of inciting violence, which he has denied.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino in Lima, Brian Winter and Guido Nejamkis in Buenos Aires; Editing by Terry Wade and Stacey Joyce)