Chavez Issues Oil Threat if U.S. Attacks.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday threatened his country would blow up its own oil fields if the United States were to attack.

Chavez, speaking to other South American leaders at a meeting on plans for a regional gas pipeline, said the "true root" of Venezuela's conflict with the United States is oil and gas.

If U.S. troops attack, Chavez said, "we'll do like the Iraqis. We won't have any other alternative - blow up our own oil fields, but they aren't going to take that oil."

U.S. officials have consistently denied Chavez's suggestions that Washington is planning an invasion to oust him.

Earlier at the meeting, Chavez predicted the days of cheap oil were over and that world prices will keep rising to new highs.

"The era of cheap oil is finished," Chavez said. "Large deposits are finished; they're running out, and consumption is rising."

Oil prices settled at a record high for the third straight day Wednesday. Supply constraints in Iraq, Nigeria and the Gulf of Mexico have been pushing prices higher.

Light sweet crude for May delivery settled at US$72.17 (euro58.46) on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 82 cents (euro.66) from the previous day.

Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and is consistently among the top five suppliers to the U.S. market.

[Source: Associated Press, Asuncion, Pry, 19apr06]

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