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In China, Venezuela chief announces oil export plan

BEIJING -- Venezuela will be exporting 500,000 barrels of oil a day to China within five years, President Hugo Chavez said yesterday at the start of a trip aimed at forging stronger energy ties with China.

Chavez arrived in Beijing with plans to sign agreements on joint projects in petroleum, telecommunications, farming, and railways that will significantly boost China's investment in Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter.

He proposed an ambitious target plan under which Venezuela will almost quadruple sales to China, which wants access to Latin American energy supplies to fuel its booming economy.

``The oil issue is of utmost importance because we are diversifying the petroleum business," Chavez said on Venezuelan state television from China. ``It's one step more in a strategic alliance."

Chavez said Venezuela is currently exporting close to 150,000 barrels to China, an amount he said will double next year. ``Within five years, we'll arrive at half a million barrels to China," he said.

The left-leaning Chavez has strengthened ties with Beijing since taking office in 1999. The United States is the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan crude oil, but Chavez's government has sought to sell more to other countries.

Chavez said last week that he will buy Chinese-made oil tankers and seal an oil exploration deal.

Chavez was to meet with President Hu Jintao today and with China's No. 2 leader, Wu Bangguo, and Premier Wen Jiabao tomorrow, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. Chavez also plans to visit the city of Jinan to meet with mining companies about developing Venezuela's coal and gold resources, according to a Dow Jones report.

Chavez plans to meet with executives from Shandong Gold Group and Yankuang Group Corp., two firms in a joint venture to develop a gold mine in Venezuela, according to the Dow Jones report. Shandong Gold said on its website that the joint venture has invested $21 million in the gold mine and operations are expected to start by the end of the year.

Chavez said the oil export plan involves creating joint ventures with two Chinese state-owned oil companies to produce and export crude from Venezuela's petroleum-rich Orinoco River basin. He said the agreements would be signed today with China National Petroleum Corp. and China Petroleum and Chemical Corp.

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