- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

TOKYO (AP) - Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso held talks Monday with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to deepen ties in energy, investment and trade between the two countries.

Chavez said he was aiming to boost Japanese investment in his country’s oil industry during his two-day visit to Tokyo.

The two leaders were to sign seven accords, including agreements for Japanese companies to work with Venezuela in oil, natural gas and petrochemical projects.

Baseball topped the agenda before the two leaders got down to business. Chavez, known as an avid baseball fan, promised that his country, which lost to South Korea in the semifinal in the World Baseball Classic last month, will be the winner next time. Japan won the title for a second time in a row.

Details of the talks were not immediately available from the Foreign Ministry or the Venezuelan Embassy.

Chavez canceled a scheduled news conference later Monday for an unspecified reason, an embassy official said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules. The president also postponed his departure, initially scheduled for later Monday, until Tuesday.

Chavez was accompanied by top officials including Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez. The Venezuelan government, which relies on oil for about 93 percent of its exports, has been hit by a fall in oil income and is seeking foreign investment for its oil industry.

Chavez met with Japanese executives from energy companies interested in investing in oil production in the South American nation, according to the president’s office.

Chavez has said Venezuela expects $500 million in Japanese investment to help upgrade Venezuela’s Puerto La Cruz refinery.

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