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Venezuela's Chavez Says Exxon Ought To Pay For 'Damages'

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES CARACAS -(Dow Jones)- President Hugo Chavez said Wednesday that companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) should pay Venezuela for "damages" to the country, just days after an international court awarded the U.S. oil company a lower-than-expected compensation in its arbitration case against the South American country over expropriated assets. Chavez, in his first comments regarding the verdict, called Exxon "arrogant" for initially seeking $12 billion in restitution, an amount he said was "madness." Though the U.S. oil major eventually reduced its claim to $7 billion, it was granted a mere fraction of that after a court at the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce issued a $908 million award in the case. Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela said, in the end, it will only have to pay $255 million after discounting money owed by Exxon and what it was awarded by the ICC court in a counterclaim. The verdict came more than four years after the Chavez administration nationalized Exxon's Venezuelan oil assets following the company's rejection of a decree allowing for the state to take majority ownership of all oil projects. The leftist leader often accuses multinationals of exploiting Venezuela's vast resources without putting anything back into the country and during his 12 years in power has embarked on a massive nationalization campaign to centralize control over the country's top economic sectors. "How much have these companies robbed from us during the last 100 years?" Chavez asked Wednesday. "They robbed us, so they better pay for the damages for those 100 years." Exxon "would not reach an amicable settlement...[which] has always been our will," Chavez said, citing recent "friendly agreements" the government reached, including a $600 million settlement with Cemex SAB (CX, CEMEX.MX) for assets seized from the Mexican cement giant in 2008. Venezuela still faces around 20 arbitration cases at the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, including a separate suit filed by Exxon and a $20 billion claim from ConocoPhillips (COP). -By Kejal Vyas, Dow Jones Newswires; 58-414-249-6821; kejal.vyas@dowjones.com

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