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    Venezuela's Chavez hopes for Russia aid to build $20bln pipeline

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    Venezuela's president said Thursday his country hopes for Russia's aid in the construction of a $20-billion natural gas pipeline.

    MOSCOW, July 27 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuela's president said Thursday his country hopes for Russia's aid in the construction of a $20-billion natural gas pipeline.

    Hugo Chavez said after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Venezuela possessed some of the world's largest gas reserves.

    "Russia's support in the construction of a major pipeline is highly important to us," he said.

    The outspoken South American leader, who was elected president in 1998, is on a tour of eastern Europe in a bid to expand ties with the region, which is home to some of the world's leading defense-industry plants and has considerable mineral wealth.

    Chavez said earlier he planned to sign an agreement on the construction of a pipe-making plant in his country. The president said his country needed 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) of pipes for a $20 billion gas pipeline to connect Venezuela with the Caribbean coast.

    Chavez said the governments of Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina were closely cooperating on the project.

    "We have a firm political will and already formed six working groups to promote this project," Chavez said, adding that the governments of Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia had also shown interest in the project.

    The president said cooperation in energy sector was a priority for Russia, the world's no.2 crude exporter, and Venezuela and praised interaction between major Russian enterprises and Venezuelan companies.

    "We are very pleased to say that [Russia's no.1 oil producer] LUKoil and [energy giant] Gazprom are already in Venezuela and will soon start exploration of deposits on land and sea," Chavez said.

    He added that Venezuela's oil reserves were continuing to grow, especially in the basin of the Orinoco River, which estimated reserves stand at 170 billion of barrels.

    "This puts Venezuela in the first place [in the world] with our reserves, even higher than Saudi Arabia," the president said.

    "We know that the energy security was the central issue on the agenda of the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg," Chavez said. "Taking into account vast deposits and reserves of our countries Venezuela and Russia play a significant role for the world's future development."

    Venezuela has proven reserves of natural gas totaling 4.1 trillion cu m and produces about 30 bln cu m of gas per year. The country also has proven reserves of oil totaling 11.2 billion tons (82.3 bln bbl). The total length of pipelines in the country is 5,000km (3,100 miles).

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