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Venezuela signs Chinese oil deal

By Warren Bull
BBC Americas analyst

Hugo Chavez and Hu Jintao
Chavez (left) held talks in Beijing with Hu

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has signed a series of energy co-operation deals with China.

He said oil exports from Venezuela to China could rise threefold by 2012, to one million barrels a day.

Venezuela, one of the world's largest oil producers, is seeking new markets to reduce its dependency on exports to the United States.

Mr Chavez has now continued to Russia, for his third visit to Moscow within three months.

Energy co-operation

After holding talks with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, the Venezuelan president told journalists in Beijing that China was a super-giant, which needed more energy, and that Venezuela was committed to help provide it.

"While the world enters an energy crisis, we are investing," said Mr Chavez.

Apart from oil exports to China, other plans include joint projects to build three oil refineries in the country capable of processing Venezuela's heavy crude oil.

As in Latin America, Mr Chavez is seeking to use his vast oil reserves to forge alliances away from Washington's influence.

Now he begins a visit to Russia, where, as with Beijing, energy co-operation is central to Venezuela's relationship.

But so too is military firepower.

In the past few years Hugo Chavez has signed arms contracts with Russia worth more than $4bn, and only last week a Russian Navy squadron left for Venezuela, where the two countries are scheduled to hold joint exercises in the coming weeks.

The US government says it is not concerned by the developments, but equally it cannot be happy about the encroachment by Russia, or China, into a region Washington has long considered its backyard.

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