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Venezuela plans new ways to sell oil if sanctions imposed: Maduro


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Moscow — Venezuela has alternatives to allow it to sell oil if the US decides to imposes further sanctions on its oil sector, President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday.

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"Big names are trying to negotiate at very high levels and avoid such decisions that are wrong and are quite unclear. Venezuela has its plan A, plan B and C, and other alternatives," Maduro told delegates at the Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow.

The Trump administration imposed new sanctions in late August, prohibiting trading new debt and equity issued by the Venezuelan government and state oil company PDVSA.

These followed a widely criticized July 30 vote that allowed Maduro to replace the country's National Assembly with a hand-picked Constituent Assembly expected to rewrite the constitution.

While the latest round of sanctions are not expected to affect petroleum flows between the US and Venezuela, the administration is still weighing oil sector sanctions in the future.

"Oil is tradable, and if there is some decision to go after the oil of my country, I think the same will happen to the consumers in the US. And the companies who are our counter parties and have been such for the last 50 years will probably also suffer," he added.

"The biggest companies in the world are interested in buying our oil and oil products. Naturally we will be creating the conditions necessary to cover the needs and demands of those companies. I'm quite firm about this," Maduro said.

Venezuela produced an average of 1.90 million b/d in August, according to the latest S&P Global Platts OPEC survey released in September. It averaged 1.947 million b/d from January to August, 25,000 b/d below its OPEC quota of 1.972 million b/d.

The US imported an average of 708,000 b/d of Venezuelan crude in May, down from 812,000 b/d in April and the peak of nearly 1.51 million b/d in June 1997, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.

While Venezuela's production has been falling for several years, the situation has grown more challenging in recent months, as state-owned oil company PDVSA has struggled to import sufficient diluents to lift its extra heavy oil, maintain facilities in working order and pay its employees, service companies and shipping fees.

Defaults on PDVSA debt loom, with the company significantly behind on payments to several creditors.

The country is also unable to generate cash from oil sales, as it has committed to oil supply agreements with China, Cuba and others, in which oil has been, exchanged for loans, consumer goods, services and industrial goods.

PDVSA also owes around $3.5 billion to the US in the coming five to six weeks.

"Venezuela has always been able to comply with its debt and obligations, and this will be done," Maduro said.

"Of course we need to think of the barriers being put up by the Trump administration, which make it more difficult to operate in the market and to build normal relationships between ourselves and the debt holders. I should say here that we are being pursued but we will be in full compliance with our commitment and obligations," Maduro added.

Sources in Moscow said Maduro is due to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin later Wednesday to discuss the oil market, and also a possible new loan from the Russian government.

--Edited by Jeremy Lovell,