(Adds details on Abrams' diplomatic career)
WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Former U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams will lead U.S. efforts on Venezuela, where Washington has recognized an opposition leader as the legitimate president, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.
"Elliott will be a true asset to our mission to help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country," Pompeo said in announcing Abrams' appointment.
He said Abrams would accompany him to the United Nations on Saturday for a Security Council meeting on Venezuela where the U.S. will press other countries to support opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim head of state.
Abrams, appearing with Pompeo at a briefing for reporters, described the situation in Venezuela as "deep, difficult and dangerous."
A neoconservative who has long advocated an activist U.S. role in the world, Abrams last served in government in the Bush White House, first as a Middle East expert on the National Security Council and later as a global democracy strategy adviser.
He was assistant secretary of state during the Reagan administration and was convicted in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal. He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. (Reporting by Eric Beech and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by David Alexander and Grant McCool)