Venezuela, Trinidad Deal Will Unify Offshore Oil, Gas Reserves

CARACAS Mar 21, 2007 (AP)

Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago signed an accord to unify two offshore reserves of natural gas and oil on Tuesday, allowing the neighboring countries to jointly tap the vast undersea deposits.

Trinidad Prime Minister Patrick Manning finalized the accord in a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Both leaders said after the signing ceremony that they believe the pact is the first of its kind in the Americas.

"It reflects our will to cooperate, to become integrated, to unite," Chavez said.

He said one of the two undersea fields is thought to contain some 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Trinidad and Tobago is a major exporter of natural gas and also supplies oil to Caribbean countries, while Venezuela is a major oil exporter and has large, virtually untapped gas reserves.

Manning said he welcomed the opportunity to renew his friendship with Chavez during the talks. The prime minister has previously resisted Venezuela's Petrocaribe initiative to supply fuel under preferential terms to nations in the Caribbean, where Trinidad has long been a key supplier.

But neither leader mentioned that issue and instead focused their remarks on plans for cooperation. Manning said Trinidad has invited Chavez for a visit soon to hold further talks.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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