Chavez: State to control majority of oil by May

The Venezuelan government will take majority control of oil projects in the Orinoco River basin by May 1 and any foreign oil company that resists can leave, President Hugo Chavez said Thursday as he elaborated on his sweeping nationalization plans. Chavez told a news conference that his government is "not posing any conflict" to oil companies British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Statoil ASA that are upgrading heavy oil in the Orinoco. Chavez, who a day earlier was given power by congress to issue laws by decree in energy and other areas, said he was ready to sign a decree for the nationalization of the four Orinoco projects by May 1. He said that state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, would take a stake of "no less than 60 percent." "I'm sure that they're going to accept this because we are going to continue being partners. Now, if they aren't in agreement, they are totally free to leave," he said.