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British Judge Overturns Asset Freeze on Venezuela's PDVSA

A British judge has lifted a court order that froze 12 billion dollars in global assets belonging to Venezuela's state oil firm in a dispute with U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil.

Judge Paul Walker ruled against ExxonMobil Tuesday, signaling that its dispute with Venezuela's PDVSA over a seized oil project has no connection to the United Kingdom. The judge also ordered ExxonMobil to pay an interim payment of $760,000 in legal fees to PDVSA within 21 days.

ExxonMobil says it will not appeal the ruling, which Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez described as "a 100 percent victory" for his country.

Separately, Ramirez announced Tuesday that PDVSA would increasingly seek payments on its oil contracts in euros, rather than dollars. He said this would protect the company's finances, as the dollar falls against the euro.

Last month, courts in Britain, the Netherlands and the Netherlands' Antilles granted ExxonMobil's demand to freeze Venezuelan oil assets. The company is challenging Venezuela's decision to nationalize a large oil project in which ExxonMobil had a large financial stake.

The judge said he would release a more detailed version of the ruling on Thursday.

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