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Bush wants to push up oil prices, says Chavez

By Our Special Correspondent

BANGALORE, MARCH 7. Continuing his diatribe against the United States President, George W. Bush, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, said here today that Mr. Bush would like to see oil prices touching $260 a barrel. The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) should not be held responsible for the escalating prices.

Addressing a news conference on the conclusion of his visit to India, Mr. Chavez, while indicating that the oil price a barrel would range between $30 and $40, said that Mr. Bush's plan was to sell oil at the highest possible price as he and the Secretaries of State and Defence had stakes in the petroleum business. Though OPEC would continue monitoring oil markets, the solution to the issue was not with OPEC. The world should forget about cheap oil, he said.

The war in Iraq, he said, was a factor for increase in oil prices and the U.S. was now planning to attack Iran. Prior to the war, the production was worth $2 million a day and now it was not even $1 million. There was an increasing demand but there was a limit to production.

Reiterating his commitment to sell oil to India and other countries, Mr. Chavez said: "Regardless of the war in Iraq, regardless of the face of Satan" Venezuela was absolutely free to sell its oil. "India needs oil and we are going to sell it to India." Venezuela had sold oil to Argentina and Cuba, which faced serious energy problems.

Joint commission

Mr. Chavez described his visit to India as a "historic one" and vowed to take India-Venezuelan ties to greater heights. The newly set-up high-level joint commission of the two countries will meet in Caracas on May 31 and June 1 to initiate steps in this direction.

The commission would work out a strategic plan.An exchange of business teams and working out of joint ventures were among the proposals. His Government would overcome all obstacles to facilitate business. A special office would be set up to accelerate the pace of the partnership.

Addressing the members of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI), Mr. Chavez said: "We cannot continue to be dependent on the north for science and technology." There were examples of self-reliance in many countries and cooperation among the developing nations. "We should find scientific, technological independence and the Third World countries have to unite to advance."

India had demonstrated this strength, he said, and mentioned the areas in which it had made strides, including biotechnology, information technology and manufacturing. Linkages were essential and Venezuela would offer assistance in the oil sector.

He announced that Venezuelan technology would be used for drilling oil wells here.

Venezuela had the largest oil reserves in the world, Mr. Chavez said, adding that it would like to keep all those reserves. "It does not belong to Mr. Bush, it belongs to the Venezuelan people and Venezuela wants to share it with the world."

Mr. Chavez said: "We have a weapon of mass destruction and it is a truly ominous one. Every single day hunger kills millions of children. Twenty children die every minute as a result of hunger or as a result of diseases caused by hunger and that indeed is a weapon of mass destruction. We want to use oil to achieve equality in the world. We do not want those in power to have more power."

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