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Exxon seeks arbitration on nationalization of Venezuela oil project

over Venezuela's nationalization of the Cerro Negro heavy oil

Exxon Mobil said Wednesday it has filed a request for arbitration over Venezuela's nationalization of the Cerro Negro heavy oil project.

The Irving, Texas oil company said it had held a 41.67 percent interest in the project with $750 million in book value before a unit of Venezuelan National Oil Co. expropriated Exxon's stake in June.

The change in control over the stake was a result of a nationalization decree issued by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez early this year.

Exxon said it filed its arbitration request last week with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a Washington-based arbitration forum closely linked with the World Bank.

The government of Venezuela took majority control of the country's last privately run oil projects on May 1 and gave the companies until June 26 to decide whether they'd accept new terms as junior partners.

Four major oil companies -- U.S.-based Chevron, Britain's BP, France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA -- accepted; ConocoPhillips and Exxon opted to walk away.