Venezuela, Belarus sign oil deal

Venezuela and Belarus sign a deal to develop three more oil fields in the Latin American country as Caracas vows to supply Belarus with its oil needs.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has assured his Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko that his country will supply Minsk with its oil needs for the next century.

Oil producers Venezuela and Belarus also pledged to promote their energy cooperation, according to a statement by the office of the Belarusian President.

Belarusneft and its Venezuelan counterpart, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) agreed to terms giving Belarus the right to utilize three additional oil fields in Venezuela, as well as the creation of a joint venture to double the production capacity.

At the signing ceremony, Belarus' First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said the new fields will roughly triple the joint venture's capacity to 2 million tons of oil a year.

Belarus, which relies heavily on Russian oil, had a squabble with Russia last year over energy prices. Since then it has been seeking alternative sources to meet its energy needs, including Venezuela's oil and it launched a joint venture with the country last year.

The project, to which Venezuelan state-run company PDVSA is a partner, is expected to produce 640,000 tons of oil this year.

Plans had originally called for the production of 900,000 tons of oil annually from 2008, AP reported.