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Bolivia's Morales Defends Nationalization of Energy Sector

Bolivian President Evo Morales has defended the decision to nationalize his country's oil and gas industries, describing it as necessary to end five centuries of foreign exploitation.

President Morales made his comments Thursday in Vienna ahead of a summit of leaders from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mr. Morales said for more than 500 years, Bolivia's resources have been pillaged and that this has to end now. He accused foreign oil firms such as Brazil's state-owned oil firm, Petrobras, of operating illegally in Bolivia. The Bolivian president warned that some firms may not be compensated following the national takeover.

Petrobras issued a statement saying it is surprised by and resents the accusations. Petrobras said it has always complied rigorously with the law in Bolivia and other countries where it has worked. The oil company has accounted for 25 percent of Bolivian tax revenues.

Bolivia's May 1 move to nationalize its energy resources was expected to be discussed at this week's summit on strengthening cooperation between the Americas and Europe.

The EU's external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, called on Latin American nations to express clearly what they can and want to offer in forging closer ties with the bloc.

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