WASHINGTON The White House said on Monday it was necessary and prudent to audit Venezuela's close election after a narrow victory by Nicholas Maduro, the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez's chosen successor.
Maduro edged out opposition challenger Henrique Capriles with 50.7 percent of the votes, according to election board returns. Capriles took 49.1 percent.
"Given the tightness of the result - around 1 percent of the votes cast separate the candidates - the opposition candidate and at least one member of the electoral council have called for a 100 percent audit of the results," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing.
"This appears an important, prudent and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results," Carney said. "In our view rushing to a decision in these circumstances would be inconsistent with the expectations of Venezuelans for a clear and democratic outcome."
Carney said Washington was interested in talks with Venezuela on a host of issues but declined to answer directly when asked whether the election represented a new opportunity to improve relations.
"While our two countries have differences, the United States has long desired a dialogue with Venezuela on matters including counternarcotics, counterterrorism and the commercial relations between our two countries," Carney said.
Although Maduro has repeated Chavez's strident rhetoric in public, there are signs that he may want to begin a rapprochement with the U.S. government.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton; editing by Christopher Wilson and Cynthia Osterman)