Key Venezuela lawmakers step down in concession to government

November 15, 2016 6:10 PM EST

Deputies of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties (MUD) Romel Guzamana (L), Julio Ygarza (2nd R), Nirma Guarulla (R), and the governor of the Amazonas state Liborio Guarulla (2nd L) attend to a meeting at the Supreme Court in Caracas January 13,

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Three opposition lawmakers at the center of a dispute between Venezuela's congress and its top court stepped down on Tuesday following an agreement meant to ease a political standoff between the opposition and President Nicolas Maduro.

Lawmakers Julio Ygarza, Nirma Guarulla and Romel Guzamana submitted their resignations in writing to congress on Tuesday.

The lawmakers, two from the Amazonas jungle state and one who represents indigenous groups, were key to handing the opposition a super majority in December 2015's legislative elections.

But a Supreme Court order banned them on allegations of fraud in January.

The National Assembly defied the government by reinstating them in July, leading authorities to declare congress illegitimate and setting up a power clash with the socialist government.

In Vatican-backed talks between the opposition and the government over the weekend, the two sides agreed the lawmakers would resign to trigger fresh elections for the three seats.

"This is a vote of confidence in the dialogue," opposition lawmaker Angel Alvarado told Reuters during Tuesday's congressional session. "Now (the government) has to call elections."

Hardline opposition party Popular Will and some opposition activists are angry over the deal, fearing the promise of elections will not be kept and that dialogue gives unpopular Maduro a respite.

Maduro, whom the opposition has been seeking to remove in a recall referendum, cheered the removal of the lawmakers.

"The process begins for the National Assembly to respect the Supreme Court, respect the Constitution, meaning that there will be elections in Amazonas (state) very soon," he said during his salsa radio show.

The opposition took a major hit last month when the country's electoral board all but ended hopes for a recall referendum against Maduro.

(Reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Corina Pons; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Cynthia Osterman)

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