(CNSNews.com) - Venezuela, America's third largest oil supplier, will not support an Arab oil blockade if the United States decides to take military action against Iraq, its president said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in an interview with BBC News Online that oil should not be used as a political weapon. He said OPEC ministers should realize this.
"We cannot endorse any oil embargo. We cannot use oil as a political weapon and OPEC should be fully aware of this," Chavez told BBC.
"Oil is a strategic resource so you cannot use it so people won't have heating, electricity, air transportation because then we will be damaging people, the economy and the society as a whole," he said.
Last April, Iraq called on Arab oil producers to use oil as a weapon to prod the West to force Israel to stop military actions against the Palestinian Authority.
Iran's foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi was asked at the time whether Tehran would back Saddam Hussein's appeal. He said the tactic could be effective but would need support from all the Islamic states involved.
The Arabs used an oil embargo as a political weapon in the 1970s, but in recent years leading OPEC nations have made it clear they do not want a repeat.
But Chavez cautioned that the "aggressors" must accept the blame if the oil market is destabilized.
"In case it is impossible to prevent this war, the large (oil) consumers cannot blame OPEC if the price goes beyond $28, because if they attack Iraq there will be a destablization of the markets and Middle East," he said.
Earlier this month, Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Islamic nations should use oil as a weapon to defend Muslims against "exploitation," but they have failed to use its leverage against the rest of the world because of disunity.
Mohamad said, "Oil is the only thing that the Muslims have which is needed by the rest of the world."
"If they cut back on the supply, then people will not be oppressive to them," Mahathir said of the oil-producing Muslim countries.
Rather than present a unified front, however, the nations worked against each other.
"When one party wants to cut back the supply, another party will increase supply - legally or illegally."
Because of this, he added, they were unable to use oil as a weapon to defend Muslims.
E-mail a news tip to Jim Burns.
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