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Chavez praises China's clout as he seeks to sell more oil

THE world's center of gravity has moved to Beijing, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday during a visit focused on boosting Chinese oil purchases.

Chavez also praised China's response to the global financial meltdown that has sent prices of his nation's key export, oil, down sharply.

"No one can be ignorant that the center of gravity of the world has moved to Beijing," Chavez said.

"During the financial crisis, China's actions have been highly positive for the world. Currently, China is the biggest motor driving the world amidst this crisis of international capitalism," Chavez said in preliminary remarks before reporters were ushered from the meeting room at the Great Hall of the People in the Chinese capital.

Earlier, Chavez said he planned to review with Chinese leaders a goal of boosting exports of Venezuelan oil to China from 380,000 barrels last year to 1 million barrels by 2013 - part of Venezuela's strategy of diversifying oil sales away from the United States, which buys about half the South American nation's heavy crude despite political tensions.

Included in that strategy are plans for China and Venezuela to build four oil tankers and three refineries in China capable of processing Venezuela's heavy crude.

China and Venezuela have also invested in a US$12 billion fund to finance joint development projects in areas including oil production, infrastructure and agriculture.

Chavez's China visit follows a sweep through the Middle East last week, including a stop in Iran where he said he has little hope of better relations with Washington under President Barack Obama because the United States was still acting like an "empire" in his eyes.

Following his arrival in Beijing on Tuesday night, Chavez said his two-day visit to Beijing is part of the creation of a "new world order."

"We are creating a new world, a balanced world. A new world order, a multipolar world," Chavez said. "The unipolar world has collapsed. The power of the US empire has collapsed. Everyday, the new poles of world power are becoming stronger. Beijing, Tokyo, Tehran ... it's moving toward the East and toward the South."


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