Italy on Monday blocked a joint European Union position to recognise Venezuela's National Assembly head Juan Guaido as interim president, diplomatic sources said.
EU states have been debating for days how to address the Venezuela crisis, with ten countries recognising the opposition leader after the expiry of a deadline for President Nicolas Maduro to call a new election.
Some EU members are nervous about setting a precedent of recognising a self-proclaimed leader.
Italy blocked a draft EU statement that would have made it clear that recognition was a national prerogative.
"Individual EU Member States will acknowledge Mr. Juan Guaido, President of the National Assembly, as President ad interim of Venezuela," the proposed joint statement said, calling for "free, fair and democratic presidential elections."
Italy is not alone in opposing recognising Guaido.
Asked in Brussels on Monday whether Ireland would follow other major EU nations in recognising him, Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters: "No, our position has been clear. We want to see free and fair elections for the people to make a democratic decision in Venezuela."