World Bank panel sustains arbitrators in Venezuela-Conoco dispute

CARACAS Tue May 6, 2014 10:51pm EDT

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CARACAS May 6 (Reuters) - A World Bank panel said on Tuesday it has rejected Venezuela's request to change the arbitrators reviewing a dispute over compensation sought by U.S. oil company ConocoPhillips for 2007 expropriations.

The International Centre for Resolution of Investment Disputes, or ICSID, in March shot down Venezuela's appeal for a new hearing to contest a 2013 partial ruling that it failed to act in good faith in compensation negotiations with Conoco.

The dispute dates from then-President Hugo Chavez's socialist government's takeover of oil projects in 2007 including two multi-billion dollar heavy oil operations in the vast Orinoco Belt.

Venezuela had sought to remove Kenneth Keith and L. Yves Fortier from the panel hearing the case, complaining of their "general negative attitude" and "propensity to decide by 'sheer fiat.'"

Conoco said the request constituted "meritless and desperate delaying tactics by Venezuela."

Despite formally withdrawing from ICSID in 2013, Venezuela still faces about 20 claims stemming largely from compensation disputes over the late Chavez's wave of nationalizations. (Reporting by Diego Ore, writing Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Ken Wills)

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