Venezuela Oil Minister in Moscow for Oil Talks

VIENNA (Dow Jones Newswires), Sept. 9, 2009

Venezuela's Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez is in Moscow Wednesday to discuss oil cooperation, missing a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries of which it is a core member.

Ramirez is having talks with Russia's Deputy Energy Minister Sergei Kudryashov on cooperation between the two countries, a spokesperson for Russia's Oil Ministry said.

A spokesman for Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, confirmed he was in Moscow and wouldn't attend the OPEC meeting. Ramirez is also the head of PDVSA.

Ramirez is visiting Moscow as part of a delegation led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal U.S. critic, who is trying to consolidate alliances with countries at odds with the world's superpower.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin also met Ramirez. He was quoted by Russian agencies as saying PDVSA and Russia's National Oil Consortium, which unites the country's largest oil producers, will set up a joint venture to develop new oil fields in Venezuela.

The Russian trip comes hard on the heels of visits to Belarus, Turkmenistan, which Chavez invited to join an international gas consortium sometimes likened to OPEC, and Iran. There Ramirez oversaw the signature of three hydrocarbons deals as the Islamic Republic braces up for possible new oil sanctions.

People familiar with the matter said Ramirez will be replaced by Venezuela's governor at the OPEC meeting due later Wednesday, at which the producer group is widely expected to keep its output quota unchanged.  

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.