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Chavez: Venezuela free to sell its oil anywhere

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, talks to actor Sean Penn, of United States, who visited the presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, talks to actor Sean Penn, of United States, who visited the presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
February 16, 2012
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CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that his government is free to sell its oil to any country it wishes, although he didn't directly answer a question about whether he is shipping fuel to Syria.

Chavez was asked about news reports that Venezuela is selling diesel fuel to Syria, which was condemned Thursday by the U.N. General Assembly for its bloody crackdown on government opponents. Chavez is an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"Have we accepted that anyone impose conditions on us for selling oil to the United States, or anyone else in this world? We're free," the Venezuelan leader said.

Chavez did not, however, say whether Venezuela has shipped fuel to Syria, which is under sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other countries.

"Have we asked the United States what it does with the fuel that we take to the United States?" Chavez added. "The greater part of the streets of Washington are paved with Venezuelan asphalt."

Chavez, who commented while standing with actor Sean Penn at the presidential palace, noted Venezuela sells large amounts of oil to the United States, which remains its largest customer despite years of strained relations.

Chavez has accused the United States and its allies of provoking violence in Syria in order to try to oust Assad. The Venezuelan leader has said it seems to be a similar pattern to events in Libya that led to the overthrow and killing of Moammar Gadhafi.

Last year, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, saying it had delivered to Iran at least two cargos of refined oil products worth about $50 million.

Those sanctions have had little impact. The sanctions bar the Venezuelan oil company from any U.S. government contracts and from export licenses for sensitive technology, but don't prevent it from selling oil to the United States.

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