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Associated Press: Bolivian president meets with Shell executives on investing in Bolivia

12/02/2006

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Bolivian President Evo Morales met with Dutch executives at oil company Shell to try to persuade them to invest in his country despite his recent legislation nationalizing the oil and gas industry.

“We hope Shell will want to invest in Bolivia,” Morales said through a translator after talks with Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot.

Morales said Bolivia “needs partners, but not owners” in its moves to exploit the country’s vast natural gas reserves.

After his talks with Bot, Morales was meeting Shell chief executive Jeroen Van der Veer and chief financial officer Peter Voser.

Shell declined comment on the nature of the talks between its executives and Morales. The company’s main activity in Bolivia is its minority stake in Transredes, the company that runs the country’s oil and natural gas pipelines.

Bolivia-based Transredes is owned by stakeholders including Bolivia’s state oil company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos SA, or YPFB, Shell and Prisma Energy, a Houston-based consortium that sprang from the bankruptcy of former U.S. giant Enron.

Morales nationalized the South American country’s oil and gas industry May 1, giving foreign companies 180 days to sign new deals ceding majority control of their Bolivian operations or leave the country.

On Oct. 28, foreign oil companies bowed to Morales’ nationalization decree and signed contracts giving the government a majority of their Bolivian revenues. That reversed Morales’ sinking poll numbers as even his rivals acknowledged the contracts were a boon for South America’s poorest country.

Bolivia’s natural gas reserves are South America’s largest after Venezuela’s.

Bot said he discussed with Morales how the Netherlands could help Bolivia exploit its gas reserves. The Dutch have years of experience in extracting and processing natural gas from under the North Sea.

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