Venezuela free to sell its oil anywhere: Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez didn`t directly answer a question about whether he is shipping fuel to Syria.

Caracas: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Thursday that his government is free to sell its oil to any country it wishes, although he didn`t directly answer a question about whether he is shipping fuel to Syria.

Chavez was asked about news reports that Venezuela is selling diesel fuel to Syria, which was condemned on Thursday by the UN General Assembly for its bloody crackdown on government opponents. Chavez is an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"Have we accepted that anyone impose conditions on us for selling oil to the United States, or anyone else in this world? We`re free," the Venezuelan leader said.

Chavez did not, however, say whether Venezuela has shipped fuel to Syria, which is under sanctions imposed by the US and other countries.

"Have we asked the United States what it does with the fuel that we take to the United States?" Chavez added. "The greater part of the streets of Washington is paved with Venezuelan asphalt."

Chavez, who commented while standing with actor Sean Penn at the presidential palace, noted Venezuela sells large amounts of oil to the United States, which remains its largest customer despite years of strained relations.

Chavez has accused the United States and its allies of provoking violence in Syria in order to try to oust Assad. The Venezuelan leader has said it seems to be a similar pattern to events in Libya that led to the overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi.

Last year, the US government imposed sanctions on Venezuela`s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, saying it had delivered to Iran at least two cargos of refined oil products worth about USD 50 million.

Those sanctions have had little impact. The sanctions bar the Venezuelan oil company from any US government contracts and from export licenses for sensitive technology, but don`t prevent it from selling oil to the United States.

Bureau Report