Iran General NewsChavez launches initiative to back OPEC, Iran

Chavez launches initiative to back OPEC, Iran

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AFP: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pursued an ambitious diplomatic mission Saturday aimed at persuading OPEC nations to maintain oil prices at their current level, defending Iran’s nuclear program, and stepping up efforts to get Colombian rebels to release hostages. CARACAS (AFP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pursued an ambitious diplomatic mission Saturday aimed at persuading OPEC nations to maintain oil prices at their current level, defending Iran’s nuclear program, and stepping up efforts to get Colombian rebels to release hostages.

Chavez wants the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries summit in Saudi Arabia this week to take on a stronger “political and geopolitical” role and return to its stance of the 1970s when it tightened the screws on consumer nations.

Chavez believes that oil should be priced between 80 and 100 dollars a barrel, and that OPEC must find a way to compensate the world’s poorest countries for the high prices.

The Venezuelan leader also wants OPEC to consider distributing its windfall profits by subsidizing oil and gas products in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Chavez has proposed a “protection formula” so that soaring oil prices “do not become a destructive bomb on the Third World economies.”

However he also believes wealthy consumer countries should pay high prices for oil in order to prevent hydrocarbon waste.

From the summit Chavez will head to his fourth visit to Tehran on November 19, for a meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, with which Venezuela has signed eight billion dollars’ worth of accords, mostly in the oil and gas sectors.

Venezuelan-Iranian ties are strengthening at a time when the West favors a third series of sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.

Chavez has defended Iran’s right to nuclear energy, and has offered his services as a mediator to talk with the United States and its allies — though nobody has asked him to act yet.

In a recent interview with French television, Chavez announced that, just like Iran, “Venezuela will also begin to develop nuclear energy with peaceful purposes, just like Brazil is doing, just like Argentina is doing.”

From Tehran, Chavez flies to Paris for his first meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Chavez and Sarkozy will discuss Venezuelan efforts to secure the release of some 50 hostages held by leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

The hostages include Colombian-French former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, Colombian legislators and local officials, and three US State Department contractors captured when they were shot down as they sprayed coca fields with herbicide.

The guerrillas have demanded the release of 500 of their imprisoned comrades.

Chavez has tried to broker talks between Bogota and the FARC rebels, with support from Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Chavez is also helping conclude a peace agreement between the Uribe government and Colombia’s second-largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Chavez is hoping to take to France proof that the hostages the FARC rebels are holding are alive.

“There are some positive points that could lead to an understanding if both sides continue showing good will gestures,” Chavez said recently. This could even lead to a cease-fire or a peace agreement, he said.

Venezuela’s spat with Spain over King Juan Carlos’ demand that Chavez “shut up” during last weekend’s Ibero-American summit in Santiago will likely serve as backdrop to Chavez visit abroad.

On Friday, Chavez demanded the king apologize for his remark, telling state-run television VTV: “the least I’m entitled to as head of state is that the King of Spain — who is not the king of Latin America — offer some type of apology for attacking me.”

Upon his return to Caracas, Chavez will fully throw himself into the electoral campaign for get voters to cast a “Yes” ballot in the December 2 referendum to approve his controversial constitutional reforms.

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