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Chavez: Big oil firms to leave Venezuela

President says several major companies reject terms for nationalizing project as deadline nears.

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Some major oil companies have rejected Venezuela's terms for the takeover of their multi-billion dollar projects and can leave the OPEC nation, President Hugo Chavez said Friday, days before a deadline for them to strike nationalization deals.

Exxon Mobil (Charts, Fortune 500) , ConocoPhillips (Charts, Fortune 500), Chevron Corp (Charts, Fortune 500). , Norway's Statoil , Britain's BP Plc and France's Total are the targeted companies in projects valued above $30 billion and capable of producing 600,000 barrels per day.

"It seems there are some transnational companies that do not want to accept (the terms)," said Chavez, who met his energy minister to review the progress in negotiations earlier Friday.

"Well if they do not want (to accept the terms), I told the minister to tell them they can go, that they should leave, that we, in truth, do not need them," he added during a political speech to swear in the government's new "central planning committee."

Chavez, who calls Cuban leader Fidel Castro his mentor and is on a drive to nationalize swathes of the economy this year, did not say which companies rejected the government's terms.

Venezuela has said Conoco is providing the most resistance to its plan to take at least 60 percent in four projects in the massive Orinoco oil belt, up from the state company's current average of around 40 percent.

Exxon's negotiations also have been more difficult than those of the four other companies, according to industry sources with knowledge of the talks.

Earlier Friday, Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez also told reporters he knew which companies would leave due to the takeovers, although he did not name them. He has said he expects the bulk of the group of six to stay on.

The government has set a Tuesday deadline for the companies -- some of the world's largest -- to agree to the terms of takeover of their assets in one of the planet's biggest oil reserves.

Those companies that fail to reach an agreement can choose to take Venezuela to court to seek to recover compensation for the loss of their assets.

"(State oil company) PDVSA is capable, we can do it, and we have enough allies in the world, we are not alone. We have plenty of allies in the world to make progress in the Orinoco oil belt," Chavez said.

On May 1, Venezuela carried out a presidential decree and took over the projects' operations. The decree also set Tuesday's deadline and gave a further two months for the legislature to review the terms of the deals.

Some of the companies - including Exxon as recently as Thursday - have said they could continue to negotiate the terms of the new partnerships after Tuesday's deadline. Top of page