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Foreign Oil Companies Agree to Discuss Handover to Venezuela

Venezuela says two major foreign oil companies have agreed to discuss handing over their multibillion-dollar operations to the government in time for a May first deadline.

In a statement Thursday, Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA said it has formed transitional committees with U.S. oil corporations ConocoPhillips and Chevron. It said the committees will oversee the terms of the government takeover of projects in Venezuela's Orinoco heavy crude belt.

President Hugo Chavez ordered the nationalization of oil projects run by foreign companies in the region in February. He said the nationalization will give Venezuela's state oil company at least a 60-percent stake in the projects.

In addition to Chevron and ConocoPhillips, the nationalization plans will affect oil companies Exxon Mobil, Total SA and Statoil ASA.

Mr. Chavez has undertaken a program of nationalizing privately-held industries since he began his second term in office earlier this year.

Venezuela's legislature in January gave the president the power to rule by decree for a period of 18 months.

Venezuela has already taken control of a foreign-run telecommunications company and an electrical power company.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.