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Blair asks Morales and Chavez to act “sensibly”

Friday, May 12th 2006 - 21:00 UTC
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British Prime Minister Tony Blair called Friday on Bolivian President Evo Morales and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to show the world they are responsible with use of their energy resources.

The prime minister said energy was a concern to the entire global community and the important thing was for everyone to "use the power they have responsibly".

"People are worried about energy supply in the future. What countries do in their energy policy ... matters enormously to all of us" he told EU-Latin America summit in Vienna, adding "all of us have a responsibility to the world community to try to manage this sensibly" He was speaking after Bolivian president Evo Morales indicated that, following his announcement that he would be nationalizing his country's gas industry, foreign firms such as BP and British gas and Brazil's Petrobras may not be compensated.

His comments threw into doubt an agreement announced only hours earlier by Brazilian and Bolivian officials to creating a commission to study how energy companies would be compensated. Bolivia has South America's second largest natural gas reserves behind Venezuela.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has also indicated that he would impose additional taxes on international companies ? moves that have raised concern in the US in particular, as the White House regards Latin America as very much in its sphere of interest.

The issue has become a major concern at the summit, whose participants hoped to build on trade ties worth billions dollars in two-way trade. The EU is Latin America's second largest trading partner after the United States.

Furthermore the relationship between Mr Blair and Mr Chavez is difficult ? in February, responding to the president's new alliance with Cuba, the British prime minister called on the president to "abide by the rules of the international community".

This prompted the left-wing Mr Chavez to demand the return of the Falkland Islands, saying that the British occupation showed the UK was not fully compliant with international law.

Mr Chavez is visiting London this weekend, but will not be stopping at Downing Street ? something No 10 insisted was because the president was making a private, not official, trip to the UK.

However, Mr Chavez will be meeting with union leaders, MPs and London mayor Ken Livingstone, who this morning praised him as a "beacon of democracy and social progress in Latin America".

Categories: Mercosur.

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