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Venezuela May Suspend Oil Shipments to U.S.

The Venezuelan government said Wednesday it may suspend oil shipments to the United States in case of an eventual conflict with that country.

"In case of an aggression, that option would be considered," said Energy and Mining Minister Rafael Martinez in an interview released Wednesday through US news-broadcast system in Spanish CNN.

He added the suspension of oil supply is his country's right.

The impasse between Venezuela and the United States began late last February after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused his US counterpart George W. Bush of financing the opposition's plot against his government.

In addition, Chavez believed the United States was behind the coup in 2002, which briefly ousted him from office. Two days later, he returned to the presidency.

Such denunciations have been denied by the United States, the principal purchaser of Venezuelan oil. Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil exporter.

In the run-up to the Aug. 15 recall referendum, Chavez increased his attacks on Washington, saying Bush, not the Venezuelan opposition, was his true political foe.

According to surveys, the oil-rich country is almost evenly divided between those who would oust Chavez and those who would have him to stay on as president.

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