Ecuador could assume the operation of oil fields run by private companies if the firms do not sign new contracts with the state in April, Strategic Sectors Minister Galo Borja told Reuters today.
President Rafael Correa wants foreign oil companies to give up their profit-sharing deals and sign new contracts under which they would become service providers.
"At first we said the talks had to be done in March, but at this point we have to be flexible because the deals have to be good for the government," Borja said in an interview in his Quito office.
"We are not worried much because we are capable of replacing any of the companies that do not want to negotiate," he added.
"We would look for a way to negotiate and take those fields ourselves."
"We would not expropriate anything," Borja said in a Reuters report.
"Everything would be negotiated."
Spain's Repsol , Brazil's Petrobras, Chinese consortium Andes Petroleum and Italy's Eni operate in the Andean country, despite Correa's ongoing spats with the private sector.
Correa says Opec-member Ecuador needs to increase control over its own natural resources.
The president alienated the international capital markets in 2008 by defaulting on $3.2 billion in global bonds.
His government had the money to pay the obligations but decided not to, dubbing the debt "illegitimate".
The government argued that the bonds were unfairly contracted years earlier by corrupt officials in league with greedy international bankers.