Brazil calls Bolivian gas nationalization 'unfriendly' act

Bolivian president Evo Morales' decision to nationalize his country's natural gas fields was an "unfriendly" act, the president of Brazil's government-run oil company said Monday.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, is of the largest foreign investors in Bolivia and has spent US$1.5 billion ( Ђ 1.2 billion) in that Andean nation since 1996.

"Evo Morales' decree was a unilateral measure adopted in an unfriendly way," Petrobras President Jose Sergio Gabrielli told the official Brazilian news service Agencia Brasil in Houston where he was taking part in an international oil conference. "It obliges us to analyze very carefully our situation in the country."

Gabrielli cut short his visit to Houston to return to Brazil Tuesday to meet with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and other cabinet members to discuss Morales' decree.

"There was never any sign during our negotiations that the decree would be so harsh," he said. "The terms (of the decree) were never discussed with Petrobras."

He added that "Petrobras will take all the necessary measures, at all levels, to guarantee its rights."

Bolivia has the second largest natural-gas reserves in South America after Venezuela.

Morales on Monday sent soldiers to occupy Bolivia's natural-gas fields and threatened to evict foreign companies unless they give Bolivia control over the entire chain of production.

He gave companies 180 days to sign new operating contracts or leave the country. All foreign companies must turn over most production control to Bolivia's cash-strapped state-owned oil company, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, reports the AP.

I.L.