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Venezuelan oil will continue to flow to US: energy official

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Venezuela will continue to supply oil to the United States, despite the tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats by Caracas and Washington, the country's oil minister said in an interview published Tuesday.

"Of course we are going to maintain a stable supply" of oil to the United States, Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said in an interview published in the daily El Mundo newspaper.

"We have an important market niche there and our own refinery complex," Ramirez said.

The United States is biggest oil customer for Venezuela, which supplies about 10 percent of the oil consumed by its neighbor to the north.

But the two countries have long had frosty relations, and have not had ambassadors in their respective capitals since 2010.

Caracas's announcement that it is keeping the oil spigots open to the United States comes one day after Washington said it had expelled two Venezuelan diplomats -- just a few days after Caracas had ordered out two US Air Force officers.

"The only thing we would say to the Americans is, they'd better not interfere in our affairs," the minister warned Tuesday.

Ramirez added that Venezuela's vital energy sector remains "stable" despite the death last week of President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela embassy second secretary Orlando Jose Montanez and consular official Victor Camacaro, both of whom worked in New York, were declared "persona non grata" by the United States and asked to leave on Saturday.

The order came just 24 hours after the funeral of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who died last week after losing his battle with cancer.

The two US military officials were expelled last Tuesday, shortly before Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced Chavez had died.

Venezuela has the world's largest proven oil reserves, according to OPEC.

The government says Venezuela produces three million barrels of oil per day, although OPEC says the figure is 2.3 million. Oil production accounts for 90 percent of the country's hard-currency revenue.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130313/venezuelan-oil-will-continue-flow-us-energy-official