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U.S., Venezuela to find ways to forge positive relations: Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a news conference in Tel Aviv May 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a news conference in Tel Aviv May 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Lesley Wroughton

ANTIGUA, Guatemala (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday he and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua had agreed to find new ways to forge positive relations between their two countries, long at political loggerheads.

Kerry welcomed as a "positive development" Venezuela's decision to release from prison an American filmmaker arrested in April on accusations of spying for Washington.

Washington has angered Venezuela's government by holding back recognition of new President Nicolas Maduro, the chosen successor of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

"We agreed today, both of us, that we would like to see our countries find a new way forward, establish a more constructive and positive relationship," Kerry said after a meeting with Jaua on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of American States in Antigua, Guatemala.

"To that end, we agreed today there will be an ongoing, continuing dialogue between the State Department and the Foreign Ministry, and we will try to set out an agenda by which we agree on things we can work together."

Kerry said he hoped the two countries could move quickly to appoint mutual ambassadors, which they have been without since 2010.

The fate of filmmaker Timothy Hallet Tracy had been seen as a litmus test of Maduro's intentions toward Washington following years of hostility from Chavez, who died of cancer in March. Venezuela announced on Wednesday it had deported Tracy.

During a trip to Latin America in early May, President Barack Obama called the accusations that Tracy was a spy "ridiculous," infuriating Venezuela's government and reviving accusations of "imperialist meddling" that became routine during Chavez's polarizing 14-year rule.

Former bus driver Maduro, who was elected president on April 14, even described Obama as "the grand chief of devils" and issued a formal protest note.

A U.S. official said this week that concerns remained about how deep post-election divisions in Venezuela would be resolved. The opposition in Venezuela has contested the close election and says Maduro's victory was fraudulent.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Eric Beech)

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