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Venezuela to leave World Bank's arbitration body

January 15, 2012
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CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuela plans to leave the World Bank's international arbitration body and try to settle disputes with foreign companies within its own judicial system, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said Sunday.

Ramirez also announced that Venezuela would seek to renegotiate dozens of international investment-related agreements.

"We do not accept impositions and we are going to rescue our national sovereignty," said Ramirez, speaking during a televised interview.

Ramirez said disputes with foreign companies, including an unsettled disagreement with Exxon Mobil Corp., would be heard by Venezuelan judges -- not international forums such as the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, or ICSID.

"We are going to send notification of our withdraw of the ICSID," Ramirez said.

Venezuela's decision to leave the organization would affect more than a dozen foreign companies that have unsettled disputes with the government of President Hugo Chavez over compensation for assets seized as part of nationalizations and state takeovers.

The ICSID's website lists 17 pending cases against Venezuela. They include claims by Houston-based oil company ConocoPhillips Co., U.S. glass container manufacturer Owens-Illinois Inc. and Toronto-based mining company Crystallex International Corp.

Ramirez recently announced that Venezuela doesn't intend to make additional payments to Exxon Mobil Corp. beyond about $255 million that it agreed to pay in a recent arbitration award.

Exxon Mobil also has another arbitration case pending before the ICSID.

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