Venezuela signs deal to give Algeria role in pipeline project

May 17, 2006 02:00 AM

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez signed a deal for Algeria to play a role in the construction of a $ 25 bn pipeline project in South America.
The Venezuelan leader signed the agreement and several other bilateral deals after arriving in Algeria's capital on a visit designed to tighten relations between the two OPEC member states.

Chavez, on his third visit to the North African country, met with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The two leaders share Socialist-style political roots and common views on many international issues including Iraqi sovereignty, the Middle East and Western Sahara.
"We are very interested in the experience of Algeria in gas," Chavez told. Such expertise would help Venezuela build the pipeline linking its vast natural gas reserves to Brazil and Argentina.

Venezuela and Algeria also agreed to exchange technology required to develop natural gas, cooperate in expanding agricultural production and establish diplomacy-related student exchange programs, according to a statement issued by Venezuela's Foreign Ministry.
The visit also aroused speculation Chavez might press Algeria to nationalize its oil industry. Venezuela moved toward nationalizing its oil industry in April, by grabbing oil fields from foreign companies and forcing them into mixed ownership with the state oil company.

"At the level of populist rhetoric, the Algerians will like (Chavez's call to nationalization)," said Jon Marks, editor of African Energy. The visit by Chavez, he said, will "help Algeria reinforce its non-aligned credentials."
"But at a practical level, there's no chance" of nationalization in Algeria, Marks said, noting that Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil was instrumental in the privatization of the oil industries in Algeria, Bolivia and Peru, while a World Bank officer in the 1980s and 1990s.

Algeria and Venezuela have similar policies on most international issues, but have dramatically different approaches in their ties to the US. Algeria is a US ally in the fight against terrorism. The US banned arms sales to Caracas for its alleged lack of support in counterterrorism.
Chavez' trip to the largely Muslim North African country follows visits to London, Italy and Vienna, Austria, for a summit of EU, Latin American and Caribbean leaders. He also travelled to Libya.

Source: FWN Select
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