A power grab by Venezuela's pro-government assembly has been described as a "shocking blow to democracy" by a senior Foreign Office minister.
Sir Alan Duncan said the UK "stands with the people of Venezuela" as he launched an attack on the new Constituent Assembly after it voted in favour of removing legislative powers from the nation's democratically-elected National Assembly.
The political unrest in the South American country has drawn international condemnation and the UK Government has previously said it would consider backing sanctions against the regime.
Sir Alan said: "I am utterly appalled by the decision of the sham-democratic Constituent Assembly in Venezuela to remove legislative powers from the elected National Assembly.
"This is a shocking blow to democracy in Venezuela, and a direct attack on a legitimate democratic institution.
"It ignores the will of the Venezuelan people and will only further undermine confidence in Venezuela's democracy. The National Assembly and its deputies must be respected and their rights honoured."
Describing the decisions as "a tragedy" for ordinary people, he called on the Venezuelan government to "act responsibly" to solve the situation.
He said: "They need to reduce tension, respect democracy, and take responsibility for working with the opposition to agree a positive way forward for all Venezuelans.
"The UK stands with the people of Venezuela and will work with international partners in our collective response to the gravity of this situation."
It comes after a row where Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faced pressure over his views on Venezuela after he failed to personally condemn the actions of the regime.