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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Venezuela says no to Arab oil blockade
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Chavez says calls for him to resign are blackmail

Venezuela, the world's fifth biggest oil producer and major supplier to the US, will not support an Arab oil blockade in response to military action against Iraq.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told BBC News Online during a visit to the UK that Arab producers would have to work within the Organisation of Petroleum Export Countries (Opec).


The large [oil] consumers cannot blame Opec if the price goes beyond $28, because if they attack Iraq

Hugo Chavez
"We cannot endorse any oil embargo, we cannot use oil as a political weapon and Opec should be fully aware of this," Mr Chavez said.

"Oil is a strategic resource so you cannot use it so people won't have heating, electricity, air transportation because then we will be damaging people, the economy and society as a whole," he said.

Venezuela weakened the Arab oil embargo in 1973 by filling the gap with its own reserves.

Libya and Iraq have been the main proponents of an Arab oil embargo, while Iran has said it would consider one because of Israeli actions against Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia has said it would not support a blockade.

Diplomatic solutions

Mr Chavez added that the resolution of the Iraqi issue must first exhaust "all the diplomatic solutions, all the political solutions" and that the aggressors must accept the blame for destabilising the oil market.

Pro-Chavez demonstrator
Chavez's supporters returned him to office

"In that case we agree with China, Russia and France, Mexico and many other countries who want to resort first to peaceful means and avoid further wars," Mr Chavez said.

"Now, in case it is impossible to prevent this war, the large (oil) consumers cannot blame Opec if the price goes beyond $28, because if they attack Iraq there will be a destabilisation of the markets and Middle East," he said.

Former Saudi Arabian oil minister Sheik Yemani has already warned that oil could hit $100 per barrel if there was a wider Middle Eastern conflict.

Opposition blackmail

The assurance of Venezuelan supply will come as a relief to the US, which has had a tense relationship with the leftist, former paratrooper, who was elected President in 1998 and again in 2000.

Despite guaranteeing supply, Venezuelan trade unions and business groups are calling for Mr Chavez's resignation, claiming he is not capable of managing the country's economy.

About 70% of Venezuela's export revenues and 40% of government revenues come from oil.

The opposition set a deadline of last Wednesday for him to resign, which he did not, and have now called for a 12-hour national strike for Monday.

"They are oblivious to the democratic means and resorting to blackmail," Mr Chavez said.

"Now it is clear that a legitimate president, which I am, cannot pay attention to this blackmail," said the twice elected president.

Business leaders, trade unionists and military officers overthrew Mr Chavez in April in a short-lived coup during a similar strike.

He was restored to office after a mass uprising of Venezuelans in protest against the coup.


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14 Oct 02 | Americas
10 Oct 02 | Americas
23 Aug 02 | Business
09 Jun 02 | Americas
10 Jun 02 | Business
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