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Venezuela defends Iran deals, rejects U.S. sanctions

CARACAS, Venezuela — U.S. sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company will primarily affect American businesses, the country’s foreign minister said Thursday.

The State Department has targeted Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, for doing business with Iran, saying it delivered at least two cargoes of refined petroleum products worth about $50 million to the Middle Eastern nation.

“These illegal, abusive measures taken by this weak government of the United States, they most affect businesspeople of the United States, not us,” Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said in an interview on state television.

The Venezuelan oil company will be barred from any U.S. government contracts, U.S. import-export financing and export licenses for sensitive technology.

But it won’t be prevented from selling crude to the United States or through its U.S. subsidiary Citgo.
Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez has said that shipments of heavy crude to PDVSA’s U.S.-based subsidiaries will continue, but the company cannot guarantee shipments to nonaffiliated private oil companies.

It was unclear which companies might be affected, and to what extent.
“Our industry has the capability to face and overcome this attempt at sanctions,” Maduro said.

“What they’re trying to do with the sanctions is hit us from an economic point of view.”

Asked whether Venezuela might consider suspending oil shipments to the United States, Maduro said such actions could only be considered in “extreme moments,” although he didn’t give details.

Venezuela sells more than half of its oil exports to the United States, an amount that has varied recently between 900,000 and 1.2 million barrels a day.

PDVSA employees and supporters of President Hugo Chavez held rallies to denounce the U.S. measures.

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