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Friday, September 14, 2007

Ecuador says yet to decide on Petrobras field row

QUITO, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Ecuador has yet to decide about an oilfield ownership dispute that has sparked a row with Brazil's Petrobras, but the state will continue with plans to renegotiate its contract, the oil minister said on Wednesday.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa last week said the state will renegotiate its contract with the firm over findings that Petrobras did not have the rights to operate the 35,000 barrels-per-day Palo Azul oifield.

"It's impossible for me to make a decision about these opinions, even about the president's version," minister Galo Chiriboga told reporters. "There is an ongoing investigation about this that will eventually reach the minister."

He said that after the probe he will reach a decision over the ownership of the field.

However, Chiriboga said the government continues with its plans to renegotiate its contract with Petrobras to boost the state share of oil revenues.

Chiriboga told Reuters on Tuesday that the government will soon start contract renegotiations with Spain's Repsol YPF and China's Andes Petroleum.

Correa said Palo Azul was wrongly granted to Petrobras as a shared oilfield, meaning that the main oil reserve was shared by both the company and Ecuador's state oil firm Petroecuador who owned an adjacent block.

Petrobras, one of the country's largest investors, extracts most of its Ecuadorean oil from the Palo Azul field.

Correa, a leftist former economy minister, has worried investors with pledges to rework foreign oil deals to boost the state oil intake.

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