CARACAS, March 21 (BSS/AFP) - Venezuela believes that sanctions against its ally Iran are "detrimental" to the stability of world oil prices, and hopes to discuss the issue with other OPEC nations, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said yesterday.
The sanctions are "a direct aggression on an oil producing country," Ramirez said during a visit to the Orinoco belt, the oil-rich area along the eastern Orinoco river basin.
Oil prices are responding to events beyond the control the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, a cartel that
accounts for about 30 percent of global crude oil output, Ramirez
The "threat" against Iran, like Venezuela an OPEC member,
should not be taken lightly, Ramirez said.
Western powers are tightening sanctions against Iran over
its nuclear program. Iran says the program is meant for peaceful
purposes, but Israel and a number of Western powers fear that the
clerical regime is developing a nuclear weapons capability.
The European Union announced a ban on Iranian crude oil on
January 23, and the United States said it will penalize foreign
financial institutions over transactions with Iran's central
bank, which handles oil sales, the country's key export.
The law bars financial institutions that do business with
Iran from operating in the United States, effectively making them
choose between the Islamic republic and the world's largest
economy and banking superpower.
Tehran has warned that it could close the Strait of Hormuz -
- a key transit route for global oil supplies -- if increased
Western sanctions halt Iranian oil exports.
The Islamic republic is the world's fifth-biggest oil
exporter and the second biggest OPEC producer.
Ramirez, who also heads the state-run oil concern Petroleos
de Venezuela (PDVSA), said it was a "great myth" that Gulf oil
producers could offset for the loss of Iranian crude by
He said that at the next OPEC meeting the group will assess
the level of member compliance with the cartel's production
The oil minister also reaffirmed Venezuela's decision to
send oil to Syria. Venezuela has already sent it two tankers with
600,000 barrels of oil, he said.
Venezuela's left-wing President Hugo Chavez has defended
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime over its deadly months-
long crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
Chavez earlier defended the late Libyan leader Moamer