TEHRAN -- Venezuela has agreed to export 20,000 barrels per day of gasoline to Iran, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said at the end of his visit here over the weekend.
The president said the accord is worth some $800 million, though he did not specify the duration of the deal, Iranian state media reported.
"This amount will be deposited in a fund established in Iran and will serve to finance the purchase of equipment and technology," Chavez said. In other words, no hard cash will go to Venezuela, but Iran will pay for the gasoline by exporting machinery and technology to the Latin American nation.
Iranian state television said, meanwhile, that Venezuelan exports will begin in October.
Iran, despite being the world's third-richest country in oil and gas reserves, has a very weak refining industry that forces it to import around 40% of its gasoline.
In July 2007, the two countries reached an agreement for the export of Venezuelan gasoline to Iran.
The United States and its associates in the 5+1 Group, which includes the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, are considering the possibility of imposing tougher sanctions on the Iranian regime if it fails to quiet concerns aroused by its nuclear program. One idea that has been mentioned, though not formalized, is to cut off exports of gasoline to Iran.
The U.S. Congress has also presented a proposal to try and stop the exporting of gasoline to Iran.
Some weeks ago, Tehran warned that such a measure would be ineffective, since its supplies are guaranteed and the country has increased its refining capacity.
The deal with Chavez would give Tehran a cushion if the West carries out its threats of fuel sanctions over Iran's controverted nuclear program.
This was Chavez's seventh official visit to Iran.