President Donald Trump yesterday reiterated that a US military intervention in Venezuela was "an option," as international pressure ramps up on embattled head of state Nicolas Maduro to step down.
Asked in an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" what could lead the United States to use military force in the crisis-wracked country, the president declined to give a specific answer.
"But certainly it's something that's on the -- it's an option," he said.
Trump said Maduro requested a meeting months ago and he turned down the Venezuela leader.
"I've turned it down because we're very far along in the process," he said in excerpts from a CBS "Face the Nation" interview. "So, I think the process is playing out - very, very big tremendous protests."
The United States recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president on January 23, and is leading an international campaign to drive Maduro from office.
Guaido says the constitution entitles him to serve as interim head of state because Maduro's re-election last May was invalid, his strongest opponents having been barred from running.
Four major European nations -- Britain, France, Germany and Spain -- have said they will likewise recognize Guaido's opponent unless Maduro calls new presidential elections by yesterday midnight.
Trump has repeatedly warned "all options are on the table" in Venezuela, as his administration ramps up the pressure on Maduro through economic sanctions and appeals to the country's armed forces to switch allegiances.
Under Maduro's stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has lurched into an economic crisis that has left it suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.
Maduro refuses to let aid into Venezuela, claiming it would precede a US-led military intervention.
In the interview, Trump also acknowledged the possibility that IS and other terror groups could regain their strength in Syria and Afghanistan if he withdraws or reduces troops in those countries and noted that he would send US forces back if they did.
Trump announced in December that he was ordering staff to execute a "full" and "rapid" withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
On Friday, CNN reported that the Pentagon believes that IS could re-emerge and take back territory in Syria within months if the US does not maintain military pressure on the terror group, according to an official familiar with the latest assessment. Another US official said that some military and intelligence officials are concerned it could happen even sooner.