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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 11:42 GMT
Venezuela pushes ties with Africa
By Greg Morsbach
BBC News, Caracas

Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez appears keen on energy ventures outside Venezuela
Venezuela is launching a big diplomatic offensive to build closer ties with the African continent.

The government wants to open more diplomatic missions in Africa and invest in oil operations there.

Venezuela is reaching out to Africa, says Foreign Minister for African Affairs Reinaldo Bolivar.

During a meeting with African diplomats in Brazil, Mr Bolivar said Venezuela would this year be offering technical and legal know-how in the oil sector.

He said his country's state-owned oil company PDVSA was studying the possibility of entering oil exploration partnerships with a string of African governments.

Security Council bid

Last year, Venezuela started imposing joint venture agreements and higher taxes on multi-national oil giants operating in its oil fields.

Venezuelan diplomats may advise African energy ministers to go down that road.

The South American country is currently pushing for a more visible presence in Africa.

It wants to open diplomatic missions in 12 African nations, including the oil-rich Sao Tome and Principe, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

The Venezuelan foreign ministry has also announced plans to set up health and education projects in Africa together with Cuba.

Venezuela would like to see strong African support for its bid to gain a seat on the UN Security Council in New York.

Officials here in Caracas say that so far they are confident of receiving backing from Ghana and Zimbabwe.

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