State security agents have arrested the mayor of Venezuela's third-largest city for alleged corruption after President Nicolas Maduro asked politicians to grant him decree powers he says he needs to fight it.

Valencia mayor Edgardo Parra, a member of the ruling Socialist Party, was picked up at his home late on Saturday by the national intelligence agency Sebin, the attorney general's office said.

It was the most high profile arrest so far in the president's anti-corruption campaign. Venezuela's opposition says Maduro's request last week was aimed at them. The government denies this, and says Parra's arrest proves it will go after corruption wherever it exists.

Francisco Ameliach, the governor of Carabobo state and another member of the ruling party, told state media: "We will not protect anyone who commits a crime involving public funds, which are sacred because it's the people's money. There are no untouchables here."

Valencia, a city of about two million people, is the capital of Carabobo. A statement from the attorney-general's office said Sebin agents had found "criminal items of interest" during the raid to arrest the mayor. It said two other people were detained and accused of running "a sort of parallel office" that managed more than a dozen cooperatives and companies with the mayor's office.

The move against Parra came as the National Assembly is expected to approve Maduro's request for decree powers for a year in a process last used during the 14-year rule of his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

Maduro says fast-track decree powers are essential so he can step up an anti-corruption campaign which has included the arrest of the boss of a big state mining firm, and uncovered the theft of $84 million from a fund partially financed by China.

Source: Agencies