Opec not getting involved in Iran dispute


CARACAS — Opec will not get involved in the stand-off between Iran and Western powers over its nuclear programme, Venezuela’s Oil minister said on Monday during an official visit by Iran’s president to Venezuela.

The Islamic Republic is facing toughened sanctions by the United States meant to force a halt to its uranium enrichment programme, which Washington says is aimed at creating weapons. Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful.

“Opec will not get involved in the issue with Iran,” Ramirez told reporters following a meeting between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He said the sanctions are “causing instability in the market”.

Ramirez also said Venezuela considered its legal dispute with US oil giant Exxon Mobil to be closed after an arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce, or ICC, ordered Venezuela to pay $908m in a commercial dispute over 2007 nationalisation of assets.

He said there was no longer any reason for Exxon to continue with a separate arbitration proceeding at the World Bank arbitration tribunal known as the ICSID, where Exxon is seeking compensation for the value of assets taken over by the state.

“We will not accept any resolution that plans to impose an exorbitant payment on our country,” Ramirez told reporters, reiterating President Hugo Chavez’s statements on Sunday Venezuela planned to withdraw from the ICSID.

But he added that for the time being, Venezuela will continue litigation of a similar dispute with US oil giant ConocoPhillips, which also sued over the 2007 state takeover of its assets.

The Conoco and Exxon cases are the most advanced of more than 20 arbitration claims against Venezuela at the ICSID. Some experts expect the next ICSID ruling related to Venezuela could come in 2012, though Venezuela’s government does not expect rulings this year.