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Spain to expel Venezuela's ambassador as 'persona non grata'

FILE PHOTO: Spain's Government spokesman, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, speaks during an interview with Reuters at Education Ministry in Madrid, Spain, October 28, 2017. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish government has declared Venezuela’s ambassador in Spain ‘persona non grata’ following an equivalent move by the Venezuelan government on Thursday, government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said on Friday.

The Venezuelan ambassador must leave Spain within the next 72 hours according to diplomatic protocol, de Vigo said during a news conference following the weekly cabinet meeting.

“The principle of reciprocity in diplomacy implies that we give the same treatment that they’ve given to the Spanish ambassador; declare them ‘persona non grata’ and give them 72 hours to leave the country,” he said.

Venezuela said on Thursday it was expelling the Spanish ambassador from Caracas in response to Spanish “aggressions”. The decision came days after the European Union imposed sanctions on senior officials of the socialist government.

On Friday, the European Union condemned Venezuela for expelling the Spanish ambassador and called for the decision to be reversed and diplomatic relations to remain in place.

Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Kevin Liffey