BUENOS AIRES Argentina's Senate on Thursday approved a government bill to nationalize the country's biggest oil company, YPF, clearing the way for likely approval by the lower house next week.
President Cristina Fernandez, a popular second-term leader who controls both houses of Congress, unveiled plans last week to seize a 51 percent stake in YPF from Spain's Repsol.
The government says the parent company under-invested and under-produced in Argentina, a charge that Repsol dismisses.
An overwhelming majority of 63 senators voted in favor of the expropriation, with only three voting against the bill and four abstentions. The early morning vote was held after a marathon debate that started around midday on Wednesday.
Most Argentines support the move to renationalize YPF, privatized in the 1990s after 70 years under full state control. Many blame the privatizations and other free-market reforms of that decade for provoking Argentina's 2001/02 financial meltdown.
"The privatization of YPF was one of the worst mistakes of that era," Senator Miguel Pichetto, a Fernandez ally, said just before the vote was called.
(Reporting By Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Ron Popeski)