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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 21:55 GMT
Exxon in Venezuela asset freeze
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Mr Chavez gave Exxon until June last year to accept its takeover
US oil giant Exxon Mobil has said it has won a court order to freeze up to $12bn (6bn) in Venezuelan assets.

The firm has been fighting for compensation since Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez took its stake in heavy oil projects in the country last June.

A British court has now ordered that Venezuela state oil firm PDVSA cannot sell any of its assets, up to a value of $12bn, Exxon said.

Assets were also frozen in the Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles.

Last year Exxon took its case to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

It has not said how much compensation it wants for the 41.7% stake in the Orinoco Belt oil field - worth an estimated $750m (370m).

Proven reserves

Venezuela took over the oil project as part of a nationalisation drive.

President Chavez's government took control of exploration projects in the Orinoco Belt, which had been among the last privately-run fields in the country.

It is the country's most important oil area, with massive potential.

There are proven reserves of at least 80 billion barrels, but there could be enough there to make Venezuela the world's biggest source of oil.

Four major companies - US-based Chevron, the UK's BP, French group Total and Norway's Statoil - accepted the government's move.

Only Exxon and ConocoPhillips refused to accept the terms of the deal, which made them junior partners in the project, by the June deadline.

Officials in Venezuela and at PDVSA declined to comment.

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