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Venezuela, Russia In Joint Crude-Oil Venture

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Venezuela and Russia have announced a joint venture to drill for heavy crude oil in Venezuela's Orinoco River basin.

Officials say the project aims to produce 50,000 barrels per day starting this year.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said a new joint company will be run by Venezuela's state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and a consortium of five Russian companies -- Rosneft, LUKoil, TNK-BP, Gazprom, and Surgutneftegas.

The Venezuelan company will own 60 percent of the venture.

The minister said the new joint company plans also to build a facility to process about 450,000 barrels of oil a day.

The agreement was announced ahead of a scheduled visit to Venezuela on April 2 by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is due to hold talks with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez has sought to develop close ties with Moscow in recent years and has bought more than $4 billion of Russian weapons, including assault rifles, helicopters, planes, and missiles.

compiled from agency reports