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Iran Strengthens South America Ties

The leaders of Iran and Venezuela cemented an alliance aimed at countering the United States while the Iranian president reached out to a new ally in Bolivia and declared that together, "no one can defeat us."

After being vilified during his U.N. visit this week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled on to friendlier territory Thursday, first stopping in Bolivia — where he pledged $1 billion in investment — and then visiting Venezuela to meet President Hugo Chavez.

"Together we are surely growing stronger, and in truth no one can defeat us," the Iranian leader said through an interpreter. Apparently referring to the U.S., he said, "Imperialism has no other option: Respect the peoples (of the world) or accept defeat."

Chavez greeted the Iranian leader warmly on a red carpet in front of the presidential palace, where they both stood before microphones and let loose with rhetoric challenging Washington.

"We will continue resisting to the end in the face of imperialism," Ahmadinejad said. "And the age of imperialism has ended."

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Venezuela's Chavez urges Brazil to counter US

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged Brazil on Thursday to accelerate trade and energy integration with his country to help counterbalance U.S. interests in the region.

The leader of the oil-rich Caribbean nation criticized Brazil for dragging its feet on his proposal to build a $20 billion pipeline from Venezuela to Argentina that would supply much of South America with gas.

"We are very surprised there are people here that oppose (the pipeline)," Chavez said in the northern Brazil city of Manaus before a meeting with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"Venezuela has 80 percent of South America's proven gas reserves -- let the Brazilians know that," he said.

The two left-wing leaders favor South American integration as a counterbalance to the trade interests of rich countries but Lula has repeatedly distanced himself from Chavez's anti-market and nationalist policies.

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Petroleos de Venezuela to Convert Accounts Away From Dollars

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez instructed Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company, to convert its investment accounts from dollars to euros and Asian currencies to reduce risk.

The decision may help weaken the dollar as the Federal Reserve prepares to lower interest rates this week, said Philip Wee, an economist at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore. The currency has fallen against 14 of the 16 most-active over the past year, partly as governments signaled they may diversify their holdings away from the U.S., the world's primary destination for reserves.

Venezuela moved some of its reserves into euros last year, along with other oil producers including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. The $50 billion Qatar Investment Authority said Sept. 4 it was looking for options in Asia to counter a weak dollar. China is starting a fund to look for higher returns on some of its almost $1.4 trillion holdings.

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Exxon is first to go legal route in Venezuela dispute

nternational authorities could take three to four years before giving Exxon Mobil Corp. an answer to its dispute with the Venezuelan government over compensation for seized oil-production assets, analysts say.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, Exxon said it last week filed a request for arbitration with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a forum closely linked with the World Bank. The move comes after several months of talks between the company and the Venezuelan government.

Venezuelan officials have made it clear they are prepared to pay only book value for the assets, which Exxon says comes to $750 million. Exxon argues it should be paid market value, which would be considerably more.

The filing marks the first legal move following the nationalization of the assets in June. Before Exxon's filing, there was little information about where negotiations over the assets stood between Exxon and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

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Venezuela's Chavez says he could govern until 2027 if voters approve reform

President Hugo Chavez said he could continue governing until 2027 if voters do away with re-election limits because he needs more time in office to establish a socialist economic model in Venezuela.

He has previously said he could stay on as president until 2021 if his proposed constitutional reforms — which among other changes would eliminate presidential term limits, letting him run as many more times as he wants — are approved.

Government opponents have attacked the reforms, accusing Chavez of seeking to stay in power for decades like his close friend Fidel Castro of Cuba. Chavez denies the charges and says a new constitution is necessary to move Venezuela toward socialism and help the country's poor.

"I need more time in the presidency to finish this. We are only beginning," he said Sunday on his weekly radio and television program, "Maybe until 2020 or 2027. I'd be old if I'm still alive."
His proposals would also extend presidential terms from six to seven years, and empower neighborhood-based assemblies called "communal councils."

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